Despite decreasing prices for solar panels and geothermal heating, steep up-front costs remain an obstacle for homeowners looking to switch to renewable energy sources. Recognizing this gap between interest and affordability, Arcadia allows people to source energy directly from regional solar and wind farms or offset their use of coal-powered energy with renewables. While Arcadia had success reaching various markets, they wanted to create a mobile app that would make it easy for people to sign up, monitor their use, and transition to more sustainable energy sources.
I worked with a small team of developers to create Android and iOS apps that translated Arcadia's brand guidelines for native mobile apps. One of our goals for the project was to provide clear, memorable visualizations of people's clean energy use to both encourage their switch to clean energy.
I was responsible for designing the app's structure, layouts, and visualizations, and usedsome nifty illustrations made by one of Arcadia's designers.
Product outcomes are not the same as business outcomes. In defining goals for the mobile app, we idenfitied metrics that tied directly to app usage. In hindsight, we were drawing on a distionction that Hope Gurion makes between product and business outcomes.
Compared to what? We understand the meaning of discrete data points by comparing to other data points. Whenever showing information about people's energy use, we sought to contextualize abstract representations (who knows what 200 kWh means?) with concrete comparisons.
No visualization is perfect, so keep iterating. I once heard Ben Fry say that data visualization authorities like Edward Tufte have left us with a legacy that implies a single right way for visualizing certain types of information. Fry instead encourages ongoing experimentation in pursuit of the best given the context — something we had a chance to practice on this project.
Working with Arcadia's product manager, I defined a new registration flow for the clean energy programs that led to a simpler, clearer setup process for users across all of Arcadia's regions. Variations across utilities regulations required us to account for variability within a single coherent system.
I worked through versions of the primary energy use graph until it showed what we were after: a single graphic that gave users an overview that compares customers' renewable and non-renewable energy sources.
Since the registration process can take multiple days to finalize, we considered ways to clearly show users' account status in the system. This was especially important for plans that included variable-rate metering, where their renewable energy bill might change from month to month.
Although Arcadia had the beginnings of a web style guide, it was largely desktop-focused. I used their brand guidelines as a starting point for creating a native-oriented design system that would work across iOS and Android.
Arcadia's mission is to make clean energy accessible to everyone. But that doesn't mean just making it commercially available — they also want people to understand how clean energy markets work, because customers almost always end up saving money by switching to renewable energy. But this isn't what people expect, and can be a difficult thing to comprehend. Their mobile app served as a step toward changing people's minds and bringing about a needed, society-wide shift to clean energy.
|Peyton Chance||Project management|
|Brandon Dorn||Product design|
|Minh Tran||Icons and illustrations|