At the University of Houston, one course required of all business majors is called Connecting Bauer to Business. It provides a general overview of the business world, the different majors offered, and has a major project where student teams work on something with a business in Houston to get a feel for a business project work flow. My team worked with the Smart Energy Group at Reliant Energy, which tasked us with evaluating the consumer’s desire for a smart phone app from the company, and what it should involve.
Reliant Energy already had an app available called e-Sense available on iOS, Android, and Blackberry, which could be used by customers with smart meters to examine their usage on a chart. The app had lots of problems, and suffered from exclusively bad reviews in every app store. Most complained about the inability to log in or the difficult to use interface (a single packaged web app across all platforms), while others begged for more features like bill pay and comparison of energy usage to neighbors.
Instead of coming up with an idea for a new “fun” app for Reliant to build, we thought we’d focus on trying to get their existing attempt right first. My team talked to a few dozen people about what they expected from an energy company mobile app, and we talked to a handful of Reliant customers in detail about their thoughts on the current e-Sense app.
The end result for the desired app added bill pay, notifications, and budget tracking. For mockups, it also included an iOS specific interface. When we presented the project and our findings to the team, we talked a bit about user experience and human interface guidelines, showed them the mockups for an iOS app, and explained the findings of our research indicating desired features and pointing out that many users couldn’t access the app at all.