Rate Plan Comparison

A way to find the best energy rate plan


Rate Plan Comparison Redesign


Launch Date: Jan 2017

Product Team: Aaron Otani, Leslie Zacharkow, Ryan Irwin

Role: Lead UX Designer

The Project

In a time when regulators are revamping energy rate plans to try and create new behaviors needed for a clean energy future, how might we help users understand their rate plan options and drive new behaviors?


What we made

A white label web application that allows users to compare the cost of a diverse array of electricity rate plans scalable to any utility company. The costs are calculated based on users unique usage patterns and history. 

How it did

  • 21% of visitors who had a cheaper rate plan available, clicked "Change your rate plan".

  • 39% of visitors who would save $500 or more clicked "Change your rate plan".

The business problem

  • Users don't know about or understand their rate plan options and don't know which plan is best for them.

  • Utilities are required by regulators to promote and enroll customers in rate plans that encourage overall usage reduction and reward for using less energy at peak times.

  • Regulators understand that only when users comprehend their rate plan that behavior will change and are concerned by the fact that rate plans are too complex. They are looking for various ways to promote energy efficiency both in overall usage but also based on the time of day in order to better accommodate renewable sources. Energy efficiency is the cheapest energy source.

Product goals

  • Help users find the best rate for them.

  • Inform users that they have rate options.

  • Improve user understanding of how different rates work.

  • Help customers understand how their usage behavior can impact their costs.

  • Convince customers to switch to the best rate for them.

Why we needed to change the existing product

Summary page

  • Rate switching actions are hidden.

  • The Rate Simulator button does not effectively describe its purpose and only attracts 3% of users.

  • It’s not clear how estimates are generated.

  • Grid system breaks with the future introduction of 19+ rate combinations and several possible add-ons.

  • It’s difficult to compare any aspect of a rate plan other than yearly cost.

  • Outdated visual design. (non-Opattern)

Details page

  • Dense and hard to read.

  • Helpful monthly costs table is hidden.

  • Density of information creates distrust of the utility.

  • Change rate CTA hidden.

Rate Simulator

  • The vague questions make users doubt the value of the tool.

  • The modal is dense and hard to read.

  • Modals are no longer supported by Opower.

  • It’s not clear what unique impact each answer had on the cost estimates.

  • User’s do not know how they could make the most impact to their Time-of-Day estimates.

Initial Research


  • Just over 1m PG&E customers had visited the Opower pages.

  • Of people who've visited the Opower pages at PGE, 30% had visited the My Rates page at least once.

  • Among people who have visited My Rates at least once, they've visited it an average of 3 times per person. That again puts My Rates in the middle of the pack.

  • 3% of users have filled out the Rate Simulator and only 15% of those complete it.

Comparative Research

How are other industries tackling this problem?



Journey mapping



We started by generating as many concepts as we could with a larger group including PM's and other members of the design team.



We then brought up the fidelity a few concepts we wanted to explore further.


Rate add-on selection

Since there is another utility owned tool that allows users to sign up for rates, we didn't want to make it feel too much like a "shopping cart" experience. As a result we opted for a filter model to see how add-ons would affect costs.


Developing the content model

The success of the project, depended on how clearly we could explain rates to users, so starting off by thinking about the overall content model, helped us craft the final UI. Our final solution had to be scalable to the numerous types of possible rate plans across utilities. Here's my map of all the possible rate structures.

How might we impart the crucial information upfront?

Numerous team members collaborated on a google doc where we started to map out the content hierarchy.


How might we describe the essence?

Since we were also visualizing rates in our energy history product, I developed a standardized cohesive, accessible framework for rate visualization. See the details here.


Two rounds of qualitative research

Screen Shot 2019-06-07 at 4.52.15 PM.png

See the full

Study Details

  • Eight PG&E customers.

  • Four renters and four owners.

Research goals

  • Validate the Rate Simulator interaction model.

  • Understand the factors that go into the decision making process.

  • Assess different ways of displaying content on the details page.

  • Discover any usability issues.

  • Assess the add-on filter tool

  • Determine the best way to order rates.

Applying the Opower style guide

Helping utilities explain their rate plans clearly

Accessibility and internationalization

The final product

Where we are now