In the spring of 2015 SolarCity had the daunting need of recruiting over 1000 solar panel installers per month in order to keep up with their growth and expansion rates throughout the country. The company was struggling to meet this quota and was often loosing potential candidates to competing solar companies. After talking with Tanguy Serra, the Director of Operations for SolarCity, I put some thought into what design could do to help with this problem.
We kicked off the project by going to New York. Garth and I traveled throughout the state meeting with solar installer and taking pictures of them at work. Our goal here was to gather content and imagery for the website but also to really try and get into the minds of our target audience. We wanted to learn what they cared about, why they chose to work for SolarCity, what motivates them to get out there and work even when it's possibly freezing cold outside. We chose to go to New York because SolarCity was opening up a lot of new offices back East and were struggling to recruit talent there. We wanted to make sure this site initially really catered to them and spoke perfectly to what they would want to hear. I took pictures and Garth shot video (and yes, we froze the entire time).
After we came back from our trip we reviewed some of our notes and experiences. In an effort to make sure I wasn’t designing something that merely looked cool but failed at working well, I built the entire design around several user stories, which we had gathered while in the field.
1. Jim is a construction worker but is considering making a job change. His friend works for SolarCity so he goes to their website to learn more about the benefits of working at SolarCity and to see if any positions are available.
2. Adam works for SolarCity already and he wants to easily let others know about the great work environment and culture he experiences. He goes to the website looking for great content to share that really captures what its like to be an installer.
3. Tyler hasn’t ever heard of SolarCity but he’s being recruited to go work for another solar power company. Before he commits he begins googling to see what other companies are in his area and he stumbles across SolarCity.I started off with sticky notes, mapping out the user flows, and then on to quickly sketching out ideas. Since I had already shown a concept to the executive team, I was slightly constrained in going with a similar approach to what they already saw and agreed upon.
After wireframes and grey-boxing I went about defining the visual style of the homepage so that it could carry across to the other pages. The website is intended to look visually different than the consumer facing site of SolarCity.com because it is targeting a different audience than that of SolarCity’s main demographic. The visual difference was a challenge that we had a lot of discussion around because we wanted the site to speak to a different audience, yet still feel like it lived within the SolarCity ecosystem.
I recognized that many of our target demographic were searching for job while on a mobile device. It was incredibly important to us to create a site that looked good on all devices, maintained its goal-oriented design, and followed a strong grid structure to keep everything tight and organized.
There are countless construction companies out there who are building amazing things but there are very few companies that are having the kind of impact that SolarCity has. We intentionally focused a lot of the imagery and text on communicating that impact. We want the viewer to get the sense that this isn't just a "another job" but a mission and cause worth fighting for.
SolarCity also runs a non-profit foundation called GivePower that provides power to schools in developing countries. For ever 100 Mw of solar power installed in the US, SolarCity installs power on a school in need. We felt it important to showcase that on the website and to leverage it as a tool for recruiting.
One of the main user pain points was that the job search itself was cluttered, difficult to search, and unhelpful in aiding the user solve the problem he/she faced. I changed that by making the job titles easily readable and the jobs could be sorted by location, type, and date posted. Users could also search by entering their zip code.
Rather than boasting about how great the company is and about all of the many wonderful things it is accomplishing, we felt like it was really important to focus in on the individual and showcase him/her for their great work. We used images and videos to elevate the role of a construction-working solar panel installer to that of a planet-saving, world-changing hero.