Best-of-Both-Worlds Mobile Experience
BC Hydro is a provincial Crown corporation with a mandate to generate, purchase, distribute and sell electricity.
About the Project
With the increasing trend in mobile usage, the experience for BC Hydro customers on small screen devices is very important to the company. Although they had a specialized mobile site, a review of their analytics found that many mobile visitors were clicking through to the full desktop site. This indicated the mobile site was not fully servicing their needs. It was time to redefine the mobile strategy. OpenRoad’s User Experience (UX) team was engaged to provide a solution that helps BC Hydro customers find the information they are looking for on mobile quickly and easily.
The Small Screen Challenge
The main BC Hydro website has a lot of content – over 2000 pages in total. When translating large content-rich sites into mobile experiences, the design team is faced with two challenges. First, which content do you prioritize for viewing? Second, how do you make that content accessible on a small touch interface? With a minimal amount of screen space and clumsy thumbs, the mobile site must be designed to be both useful and usable.
There are two popular choices for mobile sites – responsive design and mobile-specific sites. Responsive design allows a site to automatically resize to fit the users screen and correspondingly hide specific elements. This can present challenges for large sites with many navigation levels and a high number of pages. On the other hand, a mobile-specific site designs content and navigation just for the mobile user. This can be especially handy when a mobile user has different goals than a desktop user. (For example, BC Hydro makes it easy to find and report outages on your mobile, since this is a common goal when the power is out and your desktop computer is inaccessible.) However, customers are increasingly using mobile devices for general browsing and may wish to access all content on the full site.
To further complicate the design challenge, OpenRoad uncovered in the analytics that the most desired tasks for mobile were on systems that would not be part of the first phase of the mobile solution. BC Hydro needed a solution that would be flexible enough to accommodate their present and future mobile plans.
To solve the mobile design challenges, OpenRoad’s UX team devised a hybrid solution redesigning the mobile information architecture (the mobile navigation) and key mobile pages and templates. For prioritized content, the mobile site will display mobile specific content. For content currently outside of the mobile scope, the full pages will be displayed in a mobile-friendly style (using Adobe CQ5). The hybrid design solution embodies a streamlined mobile information architecture yet allows customers to view mobile-formatted content throughout the full site.
Using current site analytics, as well as feedback from BC Hydro’s Digital Communications and Technical Implementation teams, a new mobile information architecture was created that truly represents content customers frequently access from their small screen devices. Mobile navigation prototyping was used to demonstrate how customers would use the mobile site for browsing and searching for content, enabling the team to iterate and collaborate on designs with the BC Hydro team.
The BC Hydro Digital Communications team was delighted with the results. The new mobile IA went live at the end of May 2014, check it out at bchydro.com on your mobile device.