"would you like a job?" So began the conversation that led to consulting for one of Scotland's leading renewable energy companies. Smarter Grid Solutions specialise in deploying and maintaining renewable energy infrastructure, from wind turbines to substations, and operate across the UK. Part of this involves working for bigger companies; in this instance, I was brought in to provide UX/UI consultancy services for a project, OCAT, run by Scottish Power.
OCAT is a large, multi-faceted project, and I was brought in to work on the Capacity Anaylsis Portal. This is a web-app that allows clients to manage the data produced by the OCAT project. On arrival I found the barest of bare-bones interfaces, designed by a software developer as an internal beta which somehow ended up almost being the finished project. I had three days to familiarise myself with a project I knew nothing about which did things I didn't understand for equipment I'd never heard of, and produce wireframes and a final design for deployment.
At its heart, OCAT is about data analysis. A huge volume of data has to be processed through the front-end of the web-app, and the first thing to fix was the user flow. As it stood, you could only use it if you knew how to use it; even engineers who had spent two years on it got lost in their user flow. I consulted with them, and we nailed down the standard use-case user flow. This formed the backbone of the layout, and as it progressed we worked with edge use-cases to accomodate them as intuitively as possible.
Processed data is useless if it can't be usefully displayed. The slightly convoluted nature of the analysis process required users to revisit files and sets of data multiple times at multiple stages, so persistence was built into the design to make this easier. Progress indications and colour coding were used to illustrate where both user and data were on the process timeline. Advantage was taken of the user log-in functionality to present their content first, improving efficiency and intuitiveness.
Everyone likes a good diagram, and there were moves afoot to integrate visual geographic data. In its current form, this existed of a cluster of lines denoting powerlines on a grey background; this was the extent of the map visualiser. I reworked this almost entirely to incorporate salient data, introducing interactive functionality to allow element highlighting between map and data in both directions.
Ultimately, this portal will be on the front line of the OCAT deployment package to energy providers across the UK, so it had to retain the branding of the people who built it. The brand guidelines were adhered to closely across the board, utilising the SGS colour schemes, fonts, and brand into the complete design.
The full suite of PDFs can be downloaded here, including annotated wireframes.