John Cowen

John Cowen

User Experience • Design • Creativity

Gas Summary UX Review

Published:

I received my Annual Gas Summary from British Gas yesterday.

We've signed up for paperless billing, so I'm not sure why this was physically mailed rather than emailed, but no matter. I don't recall being sent this summary before from British Gas and it got me thinking about how useful it is.

If you look around online, there's lots of examples of better designs for our, typically, rather confusing utility bills. This seemed like an effort to do something similar. To show customers their gas usage this year against the year before and to project forward expected gas bills for the next year.

Gas Sumamry

The summary does show that we used less gas in the last year than we did the year before, and that our estimated gas bill for the next 12 months is £444.24.

This information isn't unhelpful, I'm not complaining about having been sent it. But I do think it could be made a lot more user friendly.

Firstly, gas usage is shown in kWh (Kilowatt-hours). Telling me I used 7459.13 kWh this year against 8990.36 kWh the previous year doesn't mean very much. It would be more helpful to tell me I'd used 17% less gas this year than last. I don't need to know the kWhs.

When I first looked at the summary, I made the instant assumption that green was better than blue. Green has a tendency to be used for success messages, so I had a moments confusion trying to figure out why a higher usage seemed to be better. It was a short lived misunderstanding - and I realised the blue bar is last year and the green bar the year before. Colour has no indication of greater or lesser usage. It's a minor detail - but shows how you need to be careful in choice of colour as it does have embedded associations for people.

I received my Annual Gas Summary from British Gas yesterday.

We've signed up for paperless billing, so I'm not sure why this was physically mailed rather than emailed, but no matter. I don't recall being sent this summary before from British Gas and it got me thinking about how useful it is.I received my Annual Gas Summary from British Gas yesterday.

We've signed up for paperless billing, so I'm not sure why this was physically mailed rather than emailed, but no matter. I don't recall being sent this summary before from British Gas and it got me thinking about how useful it is.

While I'm happy to have used less gas than the year previous, the winter this year wasn't as cold. Have I used less gas just because the house wasn't as cold, or we've done a better job at insulating and having the thermostat turned down by a degree or two?

Showing just our house's gas usage doesn't answer these questions. It would be really helpful to see how your neighbours fluctuated. If we used less gas but our neighbours used a similar amount - we can assume it's because we've been more efficient and it's not dictated by weather conditions.

Similarly, if we've all used less gas, I can assume it was a milder winter and usage will go up again if it's cold next year. Our projected gas bills would be more helpful here as we could feel confident we really have been using gas more efficiently and can probably maintain that for the next year. Or if it's an arbitrarily low usage and is as likely to go up again.

I'm sure this data must be available to British Gas, and if the information about neighbours usage was averaged out across a few properties (which would in fact be the most useful I think) there would be no privacy concerns. It would make for a much more useful yearly summary too.

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