Consumers Energy: Needs Assessment and Usability Evaluation

In collaboration with three other students as a part of a graduate class on needs assessment and usability evaluation, I provided consulting and advisory services to Consumers Energy during their website redesign. Consumers Energy is the primary public utility company in western and northern Michigan, providing energy to more than 6 million of Michigan’s nearly 10 million residents.

During this project, I acted as the primary point of contact between Consumers Energy and our team, communicating our findings to Consumers Energy and relaying their changing needs to our team.  I also assisted in project management by setting goals, tracking the progress of our project toward milestones, and redirecting our efforts to successfully navigate unexpected challenges.  Every two weeks our graduate student team would generate reports for Consumers Energy detailing our findings.

These reports included the following subjects:

1. Interviews, Personas, and Scenarios:  The results of in-depth stakeholder interviews with Consumers Energy customers in which we discovered many of their needs, pain points in interacting with Consumers Energy customer service, and potential aspects to focus on for a website redesign.  With this information we created personas and scenarios to help guide developers and designers as they redesigned the website.

2. Comparative Analysis:  We surveyed the website offerings of other energy companies and consumer-facing transnational websites to determine best practices for websites in the same competitive space.

3.  Heuristic Analysis:  Using Nielson's Usability Heuristics we evaluated the current Consumers Energy website and provided feedback on opportunities for improvement in the redesign.

4.  Survey:  We analyzed the results of a quantitative survey on user feedback for website in conjunction with thematically coded qualitative feedback provided in open-ended responses to a customer complaint forum.  

5.  Usability Testing:  After recruiting five users from the Consumers Energy service area, we conducted usability tests with goal-directed tasks on the website.  We analyzed the results of these usability tests and noted areas of difficulty for users along with features they expected to be in place.

6.  We provided Consumers Energy with a final presentation detailing our overall recommendations for their redesigned website.

NOTE:  Examples from these reports are available upon request.

Team members: Katrina Lanahan, Catherine Lu, Robert Wang, and Wei Wang