Taigo Energy SMAR mobile

Interactive data visualization mobile app which monitors Solar PV system performance
Client
Tigo Energy
Timeline
May-June 2020
My Role
UX Design
Tools
Sketch, Marvel

Project Overview

I served as the sole UX Designer and collaborated with Product, Engineering, Marketing, and Support teams.

Taigo Energy is a successful established international company based in northern California which provides products, technologies, software and services to installers, distributors, and Original Equipment Manufacturers within the photovoltaic industry. The SMART site is a complex web app which allows users to monitor the performance of their PV systems. It is free to download and use, with more advanced features included as part of a premium SaaS model.

When I was brought onboard, a large multi-million dollar partnership with an Inverter manufacturer was on the line. The dashboard needed to be redesigned quickly and deadlines were tight.

The SMART mobile was develop a few years ago and has most of the core functionality from the SMART webapp. However with new partnerships with inverter companies, it has become necessary to display not only DC data like the current app but also AC data.

The Problem: I needed to display AC data in a mobile size
Project Index
Research
Understanding the users
Solving the AC problem
Measuring success

Research

Taigo Energy is a company located upstream in the Module Level Power Electronics industry (MLPE). They typically sell to distributors, OEM's, and PV installers. In the case of homeowners, products can be purchased from a local distributor.  The MLPE space has some competitors, each with their own monitoring software. After performing some comp analysis, it's easy to see some features they have in common.

  • Main competitor apps feature a user flow that closely mirrors the web app experience
  • Competitors include a graph which compares energy production, consumption, and net energy which is sold to or bought from the grid
  • All competitors include a widget which explains energy production in equivalents such as CO2, trees, etc
  • Some competitors seem to have older mobile apps. Screens will open up in the browser, and there is unorthodox use of elements such as Floating Action Buttons.

Understanding the users

Who uses this app?

Although the app is free for anyone to download, it is mainly used by residential owners and PV installers. After talking with product and tech support as well as observing proud PV system owners post their daily generation stats online, it helped me realize what metrics matter to these users. PV installers want to troubleshoot and check performance of solar modules easily, and system owners need to check their PV generation for proof of ROI on their solar investment.

"It's really nice to see consumption and grid data information". - PV system owner
Displaying AC data problem

Until recently the Taigo SMART webapp could only display DC data from the solar modules (panels). However with partnerships with inverter manufacturers and the addition of net metering or "shark meters", the display of AC data is now possible and seems to be of greater importance to the user.

"DC data doesn't matter much to me since AC is what the home uses. If AC data looks low, I can take a look at the DC side of things to see if voltage or current looks lower than it should be". - PV system owner
Challenging assumptions

Due to the highly technical nature of the dashboard, it would be easy to assume that the PV installers were well versed in electrical engineering concepts and terminology. However after talking to the technical support team about what kind of calls they usually receive, I was surprised to learn that many calls came from non-tech savvy PV installers. Many PV installers come from a background in roofing and may take a relatively short term course on PV installation which ranges from a few days to several months. This helped me realize the importance of displaying complex concepts in an understandable manner for all users regardless of background.

"I actually got started in the field by just applying to start out as a technician, with no construction background whatsoever. Many of our employees came from temp staffing agencies as well- work on site with a temp agency and get hired on with the actual EPC after that". - PV installer

Solving the AC problem

Displaying AC data on mobile
AC data is visualized on an area chart. Users can toggle individual variables on or off.
Total production or consumption breakdown is displayed on two donut charts. This way users can see how much energy is going to or coming from the grid and how much it affects their bottom line.
New features
The old version of the mobile had no way to view alerts. I added a feature so users can view alerts at a system level.
By swiping left on an alert card, users can also archive an alert.
I added a way to categorize systems into groups. Many Tigo users are large businesses or installers who have many systems.
Although not on the roadmap for this round of updates, future plans include an interactive weather widget and charge status for Electric Vehicles. This would work with a variety of models and users could monitor exact charge stats.
Having no splash screen, I created a simple log in splash in After Effects to be shown when the user opens the app for the first time.

Measuring Success

The company monetizes the app through a premium version as part of a SaaS model, but it's not a main source of income. We will measure success of this redesign through premium signups as well as user feedback.

Although the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic may affect metrics in the short term, I will continue to monitor the results and will update this page.

Reflections

The Taigo SMART app mobile is a powerful application which helps move humanity towards a sustainable future. Focusing on human-centered design, it's important to translate complex concepts in an understandable way and prioritize usability in the functions the users really need.

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Joel Lipton 2020