Popup research to understand the needs of people paying their utility bills in-person
Client: Avista Utilities
Sector: Energy Utility
My Role: UX research lead
Methods: Pop-up interviews, paper prototype usability testing, accessibility review
Project Timeline: August – September 2019
Hundreds of customers come to Avista in-person each month to pay their bills. In order to meet PCI payment standards and protect customers’ sensitive credit card data, Avista was preparing to install payment kiosks in customer service lobbies in early 2020. I was asked to lead a research sprint to ensure the payment kiosks would meet customers’ needs and expectations.
Learning about the users: I began by interviewing customer service representatives who work in Avista’s lobbies. Because a large percentage of the people they assist are older and have disabilities, we wanted to be sure to include them in the study.
Evaluating product designs: Avista had static touchscreen designs from the kiosk vendor and wanted to test them with users. We only had a few weeks to discover usability issues and recommend design changes.
I proposed we conduct pop-up research in Avista’s lobby to interview people making in-person payments and incorporate a paper prototype usability test to evaluate the early designs. Catherine Mair, a member of Avista’s UX team, assisted me with screening participants, conducting interviews, and data analysis.
In order to capture the right participants, we worked with Avista’s lobby service reps to recruit people and conduct a quick screener interview. In a semi-private area of the lobby, we conducted open-ended interviews to learn why people had come to Avista to pay their bills and about their prior experiences using kiosks.
The interviews allowed us to discover two distinct thinking styles. To tell the story of these personas, I compiled video clips from the interviews to illustrate the reasons they pay in person and the challenges they face. These video personas were helpful in driving stakeholder conversations about how we could design the lobby payment experience around the needs of customers, including those who are reluctant to use a kiosk.
By observing and talking to people, we also discovered a range of visual, motor, and cognitive disabilities we’d need to design for.
Paper prototype testing
Following the interviews, we gave participants two payment scenarios and asked them to use paper prototypes to complete the tasks. By watching and listening to them, we discovered usability issues and learned why people had trouble with various parts of the design.
Using our design recommendations, the kiosk screens were quickly revised and we conducted a second round of usability tests a week later.
Before going into production, we were able to improve people’s ability to successfully interact with the kiosk touchscreen designs and complete payment tasks. All users benefit form our work to make the kiosk interface accessible for those with visual, cognitive, and motor disabilities:
- Large touch targets to facilitate easy and accurate tapping
- One input per screen with simple, clear instructions helps users stay focused
- Large readable fonts with a high contrast ratio to increase legibility
- Proximity of related elements so users can find the information they need
The customer service team also used our research insights to think “outside of the screen” and identified ways they can better support customers’ in-person bill paying experience.