Dayton Power & Light Case Study
Dayton Power & Light (DP&L) and Sparkbox have partnered together for over a decade. During our time working together, Sparkbox has embraced DP&L's short- and long-term goals as our own to creatively deliver on immediate needs with the future in mind. In 2017, we were excited to work with the DP&L team on a high priority eServices site dubbed "MyDP&L." MyDP&L would allow the electric utility company's customers to easily pay bills, look over historical electricity usage, and view and update account and profile information. In addition, by employing a design system approach to creating MyDP&L, the effort could push all future DP&L web properties forward.
Small, Impactful Changes
Our team encourages clients to frequently deliver small features to see the benefits of our efforts together early and often. DP&L started the MyDP&L effort knowing that the initial launch was just the first step in delivering something huge for their customers. One of the first things we knew customers wanted was a feature that explained their energy usage over the last year.
Previous utility research let us know that customers were most interested in three key pieces of historical usage content: the current billing period, previous billing period, and a comparison of the current billing period and the same time last year. Our teams decided to visually display the most critical and actionable data on small screens and show all data on larger screens only. This solution clearly displayed what most customers would be looking for while still providing all of the data in a table just below the graph.
Working Alongside an Internal Integration Team
We've had great success with MyDP&L using long-lived feature branches. These allow the Sparkbox team to deliver iterative improvements that the DP&L integration team can launch when they're ready internally. We recognize that priorities shift, and these branches give us the flexibility to move a feature that was a lower priority (or not imagined before) up the priority line and to launch it before some originally prioritized features get integrated—which was the case with the outage map.
An improved outage map wasn't under consideration when we first started work on MyDP&L. But with customers expecting more and more from their utilities, DP&L saw the need to introduce a more robust outage map that would take advantage of improvements they had made to their Outage Management System. Thanks to source control (GitHub) and long-lived feature branches, we were able to deliver this vital feature into production with minimal impact to features in flight.
Getting Customer Feedback on Forms
eService features are mutually beneficial for users and businesses as they allow customers to perform tasks at their convenience and also reduce the staff time necessary to take care of common needs. Sparkbox performed an unmoderated usability test of the service request forms (one of the top time-saving flows) to make sure DP&L and its users were seeing those benefits. The test proved the service request forms user flows to be successful and gave us ideas for a few small tweaks. We then used analytics to further validate any ideas for improvement.
Moving a (re)Design Forward
While DP&L had a pressing need to create an eServices application, we knew this was a great opportunity to deliver on needs well outside of MyDP&L, all while staying within budget. We approached design always thinking of how we could leverage elements on dpandl.com in the future, and we made reuse easier by including a design system as part of our development efforts. This system could serve as the foundation for future applications and sites.
We approached the design as a modernized evolution of the existing dpandl.com design. One subtle but impactful way we achieved a more modern look was to reuse the same font as the current site but to add additional lighter weights and sizes.
From form elements to buttons to messages, the design and development are meant to meet the needs of MyDP&L. And by laying the groundwork for a new site design out of another project's budget, we made it easier for them to chip away at creating a new main site throughout their future work.
Creatively Navigating Constraints
Some of the most creative and successful solutions can come out of the toughest constraints. In looking for opportunities to do right by clients, we can find ways to make progress on larger goals within immediate tasks. After all, recognizing and helping clients iteratively, intentionally, and successfully navigate toward their largest goals is what having a long-term web partner is all about.