During my mad 14 month stay at Which? I wasn’t allowed to play that much with any real development, simply due to time restrictions, being the only UX architect in the village. But I did manage to slip this one through the gaps just before the end of my time there.

I had a sneaky meeting with the head of Which? Home and Garden, we had to be sneaky because my time was being monitored by a rather zealous project manager intent on  cross charging for all of my time. The crux of the meeting was that the government was about to enforce the release of energy consumption data for a lot of appliances and tools around the home and she wanted to know what we could do with this data.

If we looked at fridge freezers for example, we could see that the latest energy efficient ones had enormous saving potential over earlier (cheaper) models. This got me thinking and I proposed a tool that would allow consumers to calculate a total lifetime cost of ownership for appliances, based on the purchase price and the number of years you might keep it. I just needed her staff to go into the CMS and start entering the energy data. Oh, and the tool of course, someone had to build the tool.

The insight provided by this simple data calculation was nothing short of astonishing. We showed that rather than buying a cheap older fridge, buying a larger, more modern appliance would clearly save consumers money over a 7 year ownership lifetime.

Based on this, we then determined that visitors would want to:

  • See the appliance top energy savings differential over X years
  • Search for appliance by name / model / brand
  • Use bespoke filters for specific appliance type to narrow selection
  • Sort and filter on the type of appliance, cost or savings
  • See appliance images and read the summary
  • Save selected appliances for later viewing (cookie)
  • Launch the full Which? comparison tool for selected appliances

The tool was pretty complex, with 6 different screens, a lot of widgets and in need of some fairly serious interactive design.

Unfortunately, we had no budget and no resources, which is never a good start for any project. As an alternate route I proposed building a prototype which we could then leverage in order to gain us that precious budget approval.

I was fortunate here that all appliance data was already being collated by the system for an iphone tool which never got used. This meant I could just piggy back my data requirements rather than messing with complex CMS operations.

I created a secondary tool which mined the data I needed from the iphone data XML file, reducing my load overhead from 15mb to about 1 and then I built my prototype in a about 2 weeks in time for a senior management demonstration.

It was a massive hit, but unfortunately the full estimated development costs to go into production stream were beyond exorbitant. To save my precious child, I stepped in front of the bus again and volunteered myself, offering to build a production version from the prototype – a lot cheaper as I was going to be wearing the hats of the designer, developer and tester.

I managed to multi-task my time and other responsibilities and the tool for fridges took just over 4 weeks to get into production. We went live and after several excellent reviews our analytics showed a 20% increase in page visits leading to signup based on the tool being in the visitors journey. Bingo!

I was allowed some time to refactor after which I extended the scope to create new tools  for freezers, fridge freezers, washing machines, tumble dryers, washer / dryers, dishwashers and televisions.

The graph below shows the upward trend of conversions after the initial and final installs in January and February.


And the alternative graph showing unique visitors using the tool for the first two months


Most popular was the televisions version of the tool, which really brought the difference out due to the latest energy saving technology. We could clearly show that buying a new huge telly would work out cheaper over the years than an buying an older one half the size but at a quarter the purchase price. I think I made many a man cave owner happy here.