A one-stop source for climate and energy data in Europe
After humanity experienced the warmest year on record in 2019, it's crucial that everyone has quick access to information about climate and energy that is easy to assimilate and simple to work with. Although there are multiple platforms around the globe providing reliable and up-to-date data, there is not a dedicated platform that consolidates EU-wide information on these topics and makes them widely available for a variety of users, while precisely adapting to their needs and behavior. The European Environment Agency (EEA) wanted to change the game and transform the way people across Europe, from researchers to journalists to engaged citizens, consume valuable climate and energy data.
personas & concept
Create a one-stop source for European energy and climate data for a wide range of audiences with different needs and motivations. Deliver the project remotely between Copenhagen, Denmark, and Bratislava, Slovakia, and the users spread all around the Globe within 6 months. And, finally, pitch the solution during COP24.
A highly personalisable data tool that caters to different levels of data needs and reinforces already existing patterns and behaviours, thus maximising adoption and retention.
Understanding the domain
Energy and climate are complex domains that we had not tackled before. The same applies for data manipulation. People working in this field become accustomed to a range of tools and data sources that have to be kept aligned and which can behave in unexpected ways. As designers, we did not want to make the assumption that we simply needed to make a nice-looking tool that followed standard usability principles. We dove deep into how people use similar tools in their working environments, so that we completely understand the domain.
Our exploration phase consisted of:
1. Online survey
2. Remote contextual inquiries
3. Competitive analysis
While the survey gave us a brief introduction to the domain, the remote contextual inquiries were the highlight of the exploration process. Participants from Europe, Asia and America showed us how they use their favorite energy and climate data tools, while explaining to us their biggest pain points.
After over 30 contextual inquiries and 500 survey answers, we summarised the insights into 4 well-defined personas that influenced all decisions made henceforth.
Each persona had frustrations that needed solving, needs that required fulfilling and behaviors that should be supported. Powered by Miro, together with 6 members from the EEA we conducted a remote ideation workshop, where we co-created and prioritised hundreds of solutions. The big advantage of working with remote tools is that you don’t have to rewrite all the post-it after the meeting!
You know you’re on the right path with using personas when stakeholders start using their names during meetings.
We created patchwork concepts using common patterns from websites that our personas already use on a regular basis. Each concept consists of screenshots of features from multiple websites, put together to form a new website. In less than 30 minutes, we were able to put together a complete prototype.
Hacking the remote testing
After the patchwork, we developed an in-depth prototype. We entered the Lean UX build-measure-learn loop of testing often and iterating the wireframes quickly, where we used our wide experience in running remote usability testing. We were positively surprised that our prototype was considered a big improvement compared to the current tools. At this moment, we knew we were on the right track.
The initial survey was also a key point for recruitment. Over half of the participants in interviews and testing came from the survey.
However, after dozens of remote interviews and testing, we realized that there are very few video calling options that are reliable. On top of that, many scientists had the screen sharing disabled by their company for security reasons, which is a problem when doing remote testing. We overcame this issue by calling people on the phone and using a co-browsing app called Surfly, which lets many people browse a web page at the same time. You can see the cursor of the user, and everything that changes on their page, changes on yours, no latency and no struggle to connect with others.
The main output was a vision for the new platform represented through high-fidelity prototypes, catering to all of our 4 main personas. The entire design process was also thoroughly documented so the EEA team could present the new platform at COP24. And we learned a lot of important takeaways along the way.
1. A gap in domain expertise can be advantageous
Lack of prior knowledge in the domain does not lead to poor design, but quite the contrary. It forces designers to immerse themself and not assume they know what is right. That is one of the biggest mistakes when working with domains that designers consider already mastered. We have experienced firsthand that well-crafted personas, co-creation and a lot of cherry picking should be the main fuel powering great design decisions.
2. Working remotely can be viable and effective
Despite initial doubts that can potentially emerge, we can confirm working remotely on a 6-month project is an option. It went smooth from remote meetings and rituals to remote usability testing. Remote team just needs to adapt using the right tools, effective communication, strict rules and lots of planning.
3. Lean is possible even when working with the EU
Working with governmental agencies is different from working with a local startup. Expectations are set very high and vendors need to be very strict with what they deliver. Moreover, everything has to be well documented. Since EEA is a EU institution, they need to justify the budget spending to the European Commission. It makes it quite hard to be as flexible during the contract as a lean mindset demands, but it is not impossible. Ongoing dialogue and iterative development are key to making sure the result is relevant, on-point and honed to not only the needs set out at the start of the process, but also the new ones that emerge underway.