For energy consumers with a smart meter, changing suppliers can mean their meter going ‘dumb’.
The impact is people needing to take manual readings again but also means that users with pre-payment meters are unable to top up online — this particularly affects vulnerable customers, such as those on lower incomes.
At Citizens Advice I worked as part of a small, multi-disciplinary team to fully understand the problem so that we could design an online tool that would enable people to make an informed choice before switching to another energy supplier and losing smart meter functionality.
I facilitated a Design Sprint with a User Researcher, Senior Content Designer, and Delivery Manager.
We all already worked on the organisation’s energy product and because of this familiarity were able to condense this phase into three days.
We made assumptions, spoke to experts, analysed existing data and research, and sketched ideas. We voted on the elements we wanted to take forward and test with real users.
Wireframing and rapid prototyping
I then utilised Balsamiq to create wireframes, which we shared with internal stakeholders in order to incorporate their feedback into our prototype.
At this stage I also liaised with our internal development team, who would build the front-end, and the external partner building the back-end, to ensure our MVP was technically feasible.
Next I built a rapid, interactive Prototype, using Axure, with the Content Designer supplying accompanying copy.
I then collaborated with the User Researcher to run a brief round of internal usability testing, so that we could iron out any sticking points before testing with real consumers.
We spent a day on guerrilla user research at Liverpool Street train station, seeing how people used the prototype, what their expectations were, and what they might do in various scenarios.
We chose this location because we felt it would give us a representative cross-section of society, and therefore confidence that the feedback was diverse and robust.
Using these insights, we refined both the copy and the prototype so that we had a ‘finished’ version to share with stakeholders and developers, alongside clear user stories.
At this point I moved on from Citizens Advice to the Barbican Centre, but planned next steps included using analytics, heatmaps, and surveys to gather more user feedback and continue to improve the design.
We were also considering the value of additional features such as a scanner on mobile devices, so that users with limited eyesight or mobility would find it easier to enter their meter number/s.