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Published 19 Sep 2013

Opower - Design Principles

By Opower

This set of Design Principles are used by Opower whose mission is to motivate everyone on earth to save energy. Here's how they describe themselves:

"Opower’s mission is to change people’s behavior in a measurable, lasting way around energy consumption. Such an undertaking leads to interesting and complex product design challenges. Our five design principles help us articulate what it means to build a product the Opower way."

Also check out the source since it contains examples of how they've applied the design principles in real life.


  1. Design for how people actually behave

    Why? Our goal is to drive measurable energy savings, which requires behavior change.

    At Opower, our focus is different than most product companies: we strive to influence people's daily actions outside of our product. To do this, we’ve become experts in the science of behavior change. We incorporate behavioral science techniques such as normative comparison, social proof, loss language, defaults, and user commitment into our product designs.

  2. Assume people don’t care

    Why? Energy just isn’t that interesting.

    We must accept the burden of relevance – “boring until proven otherwise.” Studies show that people only spend 9 minutes per year thinking about their energy use, so we’re starting at a disadvantage. We respect people’s limited time, so we use familiar mental models, clear language, and visual cues to help people quickly process our messages.

  3. Always lead to action

    Why? We need to think beyond traditional product metrics and make it as easy as possible for people to take action outside of our products.

    To achieve measurable energy savings, people must change their behavior. We take the time to understand our users so that our savings tips are actionable and can integrate into their lives. Users should always have a clear next step to take.

  4. Aim for a long-term relationship, not a one-night stand

    Why? Behavior change takes time, and our products fit into an existing long-term utility relationship.

    People receive Opower reports and products from their utility company. It is important to respect that relationship, and help improve it over time. As we learn more about people while they use our products, we adapt to their circumstances by providing appropriate encouragement and rewards.

  5. Build for everyone…who receives a utility bill

    Why? Our products reach all types of people through all types of mediums.

    At Opower, we strive to find the right message and deliver it through the appropriate channel to make sure everyone, everywhere, has the information they need to be energy efficient regardless of their age, income, language, energy knowledge, or access to technology.

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