TUT 07/16/2012 - 07/20/2012

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Technology Usability Testing Report – 07/20/2012

After the participant was asked to scan through the slides, while imagining the information would be displayed through some sort of device, she revealed that the goal-setting slide was the most confusing. I suggest that we change the order of the slides so that they're presented with either the calendar or summary page first. Leading with the summary page (or the calendar) would allow participants to walk through the device in a more cohesive manner. I say this because it was not until she was exposed to the calendar that she knew the technology was going to be used for electricity feedback. However, even with this in mind, I do not think it would be smart to start off with the calendar. The reason I propose this is because the color coding seen on the page will not be interpreted as related to the goal. Even when the she saw the goal-setting page first, she did not know that the colors on the goal and on the speedometer were related until I told her. Her interpretation of the colors was usage as related to her monthly consumption, not her goal. She suggested that we include a summary page, which should contain important information relating to the goal.

The device as it is now is spacious and not text heavy. I think this is great in terms of attractiveness and usability; however, I believe we need to include important information on a separate page. Creating a separate slide for usage and goal summaries would preserve the attractiveness of the current layout, yet give the participant information that would be useful as goal attainment feedback. The main pieces of information that are missing: the total amount (kWh or $) in which the reduction percentage is referring to, the total consumption ceiling to attain the goal, and the daily consumption ceiling to attain the goal. While it is clear, on the calendar, which days you are under, close, or over the consumption limit—they are never actually told what that limit is. They would have to take an extra step to figure out what the ceiling is by comparing the green, yellow, and red days; even then, they would not have a clear idea of where the line is actually drawn. I think it is important we tell the participant whether their reduction goal is a reduction from the previous month's usage, or if it was the previous year's (same month) usage. She easily recognized that if people were trying to reduce consumption in August compared to July that we would be setting them up for failure. We need to be sure that we help people set a goal that is actually attainable.

Although she recognized that the goal-setting image was a speedometer, her interpretation of the numbers in the odometer were incorrect. She correctly guessed price because she knew that the text in black was a set number. However, she believed that the 694 and $90.09 were the ceiling in which people were allowed to consume. Only after thorough examination would people recognize that the series of numbers were actually variables in an equation; therefore, it might be a good idea to play around with this. The fact that the red marker was in the yellow threw her off because she thought it meant that she over-consumed from the 694 kWh "ceiling." She did not know what the numbers on the speedometer meant either, which means we need to rethink what kind of information we want this graphical display to present. I suggest that the numbers on the speedometer match the daily ceiling in which people are allowed to consume. This means where the yellow meets the red, we have 37.2 kWh and where the green meets the yellow we have 33.48 kWh (the difference being 3.72). The numbers will be explained on a separate summary page and the numbers on the speedometer will change every month (depending on the goal, etc).

An interesting note I had about this participant was that she really liked the idea of social comparison. She believed that it provided her with a benchmark of what is acceptable use, and she even went further in saying that it provided her with more motivation to conserve. She mentioned that the dorms at her university participated in energy reduction contests, which proved effective. She also mentioned that her family was very environmentally conscious and possibly more than the average household. I think that this fact played a role in her enthusiasm about social comparison because most people we've talked to, surveyed, or interviewed had not liked the idea. If social comparison in energy consumption became more widespread (i.e. with Opower's contracts with multiple utilities) we could use this goal setting method to help people consume less than their comparative baseline. Including goal-setting with social comparison might lead to higher reduction than just social comparison alone.