First Solar

Building Powerful Solar Prediction Software

Design Strategy / App UI & UX Design / Visual Design / Front-end Development / Design Thinking


Solving the Solar Energy Prediction Predicament with Design Thinking and UX Design

When bidding on new power plant construction jobs, solar energy companies rely on energy output predictions to know how big the plant should be and how many solar panels it will require. But what if the industry-leading prediction tool took three hours to use, produced inaccurate results, and was beyond difficult to use?

These are the challenges global leader First Solar was experiencing when they approached Drawbackwards. By working side-by-side with First Solar’s subject matter experts and developers, we created a cloud-based solar energy prediction tool called PlantPredict that cut internal production time by over 80%, achieved 100% adoption within one month, and significantly improved accuracy.

Success Ladder Result functional delightful

This was an extreme challenge that had tripped up many engineers for years, but with the help of Drawbackwards, we were able to incorporate a beautiful user interface without sacrificing functionality. Thousands of man-hours have been saved.

—Jacob Jackson, Product Manager
reduction in internal production time and hundreds of thousands in saved production costs


Decentralized the prediction process from 3 people to 30+ associates



Reduced the time needed to create a prediction from 3 hours to 30 minutes



Achieved 100% internal adoption within one month



Captured hundreds of thousands of dollars in time savings



Received the Business Enablement CEO Award for having the largest impact on First Solar’s success in 2016

A Collaborative Process That Led to Powerful Results

Drawbackwards collaborated with the First Solar team to apply design thinking to the problem and create a life-changing solution. PlantPredict began with an extensive discovery process, followed by pairing UX experts from Drawbackwards with subject matter experts (SMEs) from First Solar to map out the major steps in building a power plant prediction. Using this roadmap, we separated the workflow into sprints so everyone could focus on one part at a time.

Drawbackwards’ team then guided First Solar through the design thinking process, working side-by-side on pair sketching, wireframes, and design to get their feedback every step of the way. The close collaboration between our teams continued through development, with Drawbackwards managing front-end development and First Solar managing back-end development. All the while, we maintained constant communication to ensure the product was built and integrated properly.


Knowing The User

This symbol represents what a consumer thinks about related to weather. To a solar engineer, it’s terrible. Rainy clouds covering up the sunny sky is bad for any clear-sky model. Getting to know PlantPredict users meant getting to know what not to communicate.

This symbol represents weather conditions to a solar engineer. To add comfort, delight and meaning to the interface we designed custom iconography that meets the user where they are at. Deeper empathy for users drives meaningful experiences with faster cognition.


The ROI Doesn’t Lie

With PlantPredict fully rolled out, First Solar engineers are already starting to reap the benefits of their easier-to-use, more accurate software, including:

  • Reducing the time needed to create a prediction from 3 hours to 30 minutes
  • Achieving 100% internal adoption within one month
  • Decentralizing the prediction process from 3 people to 30+ associates
  • Receiving the Business Enablement CEO Award for having the largest annual impact on First Solar’s success
  • Increasing the close rate for new business
  • Lowering risk
  • Capturing hundreds of thousands of dollars in time savings, and more

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