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Written by

Matt Brady
Our roots lie in information design. We use crystal-clear language and visuals to simplify and clarify complex messages.

It’s a specialism we’ve used to help clients around the world develop excellent customer experiences.

One of our early successes was our bill redesign work for First Choice Power, which took home the US Center for Plain Language’s ClearMark award in 2010.

At the time, it was far and away from the norm. Though we’ve evolved a lot since then, we’re still really proud of this project.

We worked closely with First Choice Power to find out more about its aims and objectives and plan out how we’d deliver the results it needed. And ended up creating a design that worked for both English- and Spanish-speaking audiences, for their Texan audience. All without breaking the layout.

Here’s how our information design experts rebuilt the bill to make it an award-winning piece of work.

First – know your bill

We looked closely at the existing format(s) and identify strengths and weaknesses. All bills have both, and it’s a really important part of our process to sit with the internal team and find out what’s what. What do we need to keep? What needs to step up? What can we drop without falling foul of regulation?

In this case, for example, we realized the information didn’t flow as neatly as it might. That’s something we often see when working on bills and statement projects. The copy spanned across a full A4 sheet, with very narrow margins, which is a sure way to tire out readers’ eyes. Plus, First Choice printed the bill entirely in black and white. Not the best way to draw readers in.

There were positives, such as a helpful usage graph (albeit in black and white), as well as news content to give customers some helpful updates. But these weren’t presented as clearly as possible.

We talked about a few possible approaches with First Choice Power and mapped out how they might look. Working together, we found an option to keep everybody happy.

Best practice information design

Information design is all about establishing hierarchies and making sure there’s a logical flow from one point to the next. We also made the document far friendlier and more approachable, bringing the tone in line with First Choice Power’s website.

Not many people have the time (or patience) to read an entire bill – and we don’t expect them to. So we bring the most important information front and center. In this case, that meant answering the two key questions customers ask when receiving a bill:

  • “How much do I owe?”
  • “What do I need to do next?”

So we brought the bill amount and call-to-action into prominent position.

Customers with a little more time might want to see how things add up. So there’s a breakdown to the right (note the two-column approach – to avoid eyestrain caused by reading from margin-to-margin).

Think of it like an inverted pyramid. We lead with the information everyone needs to know – the most important stuff. Then come the details most customers would like to know. Then we include less urgent information and any secondary messaging as follow-up material.

The existing usage graph was helpful, but it felt very system-generated. So we moved it to the second page, to target readers with a bit more time to dig into the details. We introduced a color gradient background, and included an ‘average temperature’ tracker to help people understand how their electricity use changes from season to season.

We also bundled related information about average cost with the graph, to give people an ‘at a glance’ view of the value of the services.

Personalize as much as possible

Personalization is key if you want to elevate customer response.

We introduced modular messaging to address customers who need to renew their price plan or arrange a meter reading. And for people haven’t signed up for an online account yet. While planning all of this out, we tested the layout in both languages to make sure they both worked properly.

By identifying different user groups, we were able to develop a range of messages to suit a range of customers. The truth is, most companies hold huge databases of information about their customers. But most don’t use this to its full potential.

We help unleash the power of that data. We improve engagement rates by crafting messages which provoke a measurable response.

Can we help you?

First Choice Power’s bill is just one in a long list of successful and meaningful projects outré creative has taken on over the last 15 years.

If you’d like to see some of our more recent information design work and find out what else we could do for you, we’d love to talk.

We'll help you make things simple.

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