Sunlight and Pixels
Arthur Scott IV, User Experience Designer, Sungevity, Oakland, California | Photo by Martin Klimek/AP Images
Every day, the clean energy revolution is creating new jobs for American workers. As part of an ongoing series, Sierra asked one of them to tell us his story.
I've been interested in clean tech, photovoltaics in particular, from an early age, when I first saw the International Space Station with those crazy solar panels hanging off the side. The idea that you can take this flat rectangle, stick it out in the sunshine, and make electricity--that was the coolest thing I'd ever heard. And it still is.
While at my previous user experience designer job, I took introductory classes in photovoltaics and clean technology at University of California, Berkeley, Extension. I'm a right-brained artist type, but I was able to run through complicated mathematical formulas around energy conversions and mechanical losses. At that point, I knew I had the dedication and would do whatever was required to get into the field. When a Sungevity job came up, it read one-to-one like my resume.
A user experience designer looks at the whole customer experience, starting from the time a customer hears about us via a piece of mail, an advertisement, or word of mouth. Once they've signed up and gone solar, we monitor their solar production for them. It's a tip-to-tail process.
Specifically, for a website, a user experience designer pays attention to color, button placement, text size, everything. First we "wireframe" the user experience. It's not full color, just boxes on a page to make sure that our presentation of information is correct and a good design solution. Then we go through with a "paintbrush" and make the buttons look great, apply our brand guidelines, and make it all orange and soft gray and white. Orange is our favorite color. I'm wearing an orange hat right now.
We entice visitors to the site with a "hero image." That's the big sexy image at the top of the webpage. It shows the product in a good light, people living the solar lifestyle. And then we go through and explain it, taking the questions a customer might have and informing them about what the solar lifestyle will offer them in savings, environmental impact, and securing energy independence. We want the material to be digestible by people who aren't initiated, as well as interesting and informative to people who consider themselves up to speed about solar.
Customers can sign up for an "iQuote" through the website. Once they get the quote, it's still a web-based experience. Our solar consultants use our software and satellite imagery to show the customers different options online, using pictures of their roof with solar panels on top of it. We can design viable systems, making sure we're not obstructing any flashings or vents. Customers choose the size of the system: six kilowatts if they never want to see an electricity bill for the rest of their life, or a smaller system, like three kilowatts. Next, they choose whether they want to lease it or purchase it outright. Both have benefits. We have a graph that shows their savings over at least 20 years, and diagrams that show how much carbon--how many miles of cars not driven--their solar-powered home would offset. They can pick a system, choose financing, and sign the documents online, and then it's off to the races.
The solar industry is one of the most transparent I've ever worked for when it comes to communicating with customers and the public, and also when it comes to internal openness. I can go to folks in upper management and pitch ideas.
We're building a global software platform from the ground up, but so far we've had very few pain points. We were a little behind schedule with our iPhone app. We wanted to add features and make it all bulletproof before our public launch in June. Even though the company is young and going full tilt, nothing's gone kablooey. I've been at companies where they've had massive cost overruns. It's a breath of fresh air here. It's one of the reasons I enjoy coming to work every day. And I can ride my bicycle to work, and have a view of San Francisco from my desk. If you're lucky, you end up in a role that fits your passion. With me it's clean tech.
Editor's note: The Sierra Club has a partnership with Sungevity: When customers sign up with Sungevity through sierraclub.org/gosolar, they receive a discount, and their Sierra Club chapter receives a donation.