When we think about our most environmentally hostile habits, pictures come to mind of plastic in the ocean, and a guilty conscience for recently having travelled by plane over that same ocean. Rarely do we consider how large the CO2 emissions accumulated from our online activities are, and how sustainable web design can reduce it.
Design’s Lost Generation
The Internet’s annual carbon footprint is 830 million tonnes of CO2. The figures are mind-blowing, not to say disturbing, in a time of severe global warming and rising sea levels.
We may not think about it, but a redesign of the web can play a significant role in reducing the figures. Introducing Green UX: Reducing the figures by making designers aware of the Internet’s impact on the environment and what can be done to reduce the footprint.
Mike Monteiro, the cofounder and design director of Mule Design, is particularly concerned with designer awareness. In the article Design’s Lost Generation he argues that designers should be licensed just like many other professionals:
There are two words every designer needs to feel comfortable saying: “no” and “why.” Those words are the foundation of what we do. They’re the foundation of building an ethical framework. If we cannot ask “why?” we lose the ability to judge whether the work we’re doing is ethical. If we cannot say “no” we lose the ability to stand and fight. We lose the ability to help shape the thing we’re responsible for shaping.
Green UX Thinking
Asking questions is a core value of green UX thinking. Many office workers receive emails ending with the subtle reminder “Do you really have to print this e-mail?”. Green UX is when web designers apply this mindset as they design new intricate tangles of web: “Do you really have to” … make it so complex and complicated?
The more self-explanatory and straight-forward a web page is, the less energy it consumes. Because less information needs to travel back and forth between data centres, but also because users spend less time getting things done. As such, green UX is not only eco-friendly – it is also great for users.
It seems evident that user-centric design is not only good for the users and owners of a site – it is also good for the planet. With such a win-win situation one would think (and hope) that green UX is on the rise.
To learn more about green UX check out Sustainable Web Design, an online introduction for designers to learn various techniques to minimize the footprint of their digital products, and be sure to check out Sustainable UX for more on the subject.