User Experience Magazine: Volume 8, Issue 4, 2009
Feature Articles: Designing for a Sustainable World
A single word—green—has come to represent our growing concern for and commitment to the health of our planet. No longer just for tree-huggers and bunny-lovers, green has recently entered the consciousness of mainstream society. In fact, the growing availability of products with green, eco, enviro, vegan, fair trade, and clean tags suggests that the green features of products are increasingly valued by many users.
As user advocates, usability professionals have an opportunity to be an advocate for our planet as they focus on the users’ needs. Starting with the planning of usability tests through recommending changes to the design process, usability professionals can help create what many users want: a green user experience.
This article includes nine questions that anyone interested in user experiences can ask themselves that will help them lessen a product’s impact on the Earth. From remote usability testing and communicating persuasive test results to green design strategies and ideas for making your workplace greener, this article offers usability professionals advice for creating green usability tests, advocating for a green product interface, and being a green heroine or hero locally and globally.
Some people believe that making people consume less and more carefully is not a user-centred approach because it is based on forcing people to give up things. By changing our perspective, we could see another story. We have the ability to leverage the freedom of choice of human beings to consume less to improve their health and the health of the community they belong to. They have to be provided with the right information to understand the value of their actions on their personal wealth and happiness, and tools to make such an understanding actionable. Not to have more, but to be better.
Experientia in Turin, Italy shared with ARUP in London and Sauerbruch-Hutton, in Berlin (an international agency for architecture and urbanism), an international design competition (Low2No): designing a sustainable urban district in the Jätkäsaari area of the city of Helsinki. Our responsibility was to address the delicate theme of how to initiate behavioral change to support a sustainable style of living in this completely renewed urban district.
A comprehensive strategy to facilitate behavioral change has to address the various factors that influence and constrain people’s actions, whether physical, personal, social or cultural. People must feel they have control over their consumption, with actions that have visible effect on it. Smart meters, dynamic pricing systems, and data on cost and peak usage can all address this concern.
Social behavior can also be considered as a community-regulatory process through which people assess and verify their adherence to social norms and policies. We recommended the design and implementation of a large program of design ideas and services aimed at creating social actions and customs based on green values.
Because our perception of what's possible dictates our standards of what's acceptable, we suggested included designing incentives to sustain behavioral change, along with sensors and monitoring installations that we expect will affect policy changes well beyond the boundaries of the renewed urban district.
Special thanks to the rest of the Experientia team: Jan-Christoph Zoels (project lead), Mark Vanderbeeken, Claudia Weedermann, Miguel Cabanzo, Piermaria Cosina, Takumi Yoshida.
About World Usability Day 2009: Designing for a Sustainable World
By Elizabeth Rosenzweig, Director
Sustainable Design at Home
By Brian Sullivan
Sustainability is Interactive
By Nathan Shedroff
Xeriscaping: Sustainability in Practice
By Martha K. Sippel
By Elizabeth Rosenzweig
Coping Daily with Green Ethics
By Joe Bugental
The global challenge of the 21st century is to find a sustainable way of life. The Green movement has helped increased people’s awareness of sustainability issues and propelled development of innovative products to help decrease our ecological footprint. Smart Grid applications, which enable users to monitor their household’s energy consumption, are one of these innovative products. Critical data visualization helps to build awareness, but does not automatically result in effecting behavioral changes, which is required to ensure the Earth’s future and survival. The question then shifts to exactly how to motivate, persuade, educate, and lead people to reduce their household energy consumption. Our study proposes to research and analyze different powerful ways to improve green behavior by persuading and motivating people to reduce their household’s energy consumption through a mobile phone application we call the “Green Machine.” We designed and tested a prototype that is based on behavioral change-process issues-analysis to make us green. This article explains the development of the Green Machine user-interface design.
The unparalleled societal changes brought about by Information and Communication Technology (ICT) over the last 30 years have produced a widespread consensus about rapid change. This article argues that these changes are much less dramatic than those caused by many of the technological breakthroughs that proliferated throughout the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries. The over-estimation of recent technological change is due to two factors. First is a memory-accessibility bias that leads us to underestimate the impact of past technological changes we didn’t experience. Second is a failure to realize the algorithmic nature of change. We focus on the cumulative aspect of innovation (distorting the perceived effect of an innovation with the cumulative effect of previous technologies on which it’s built) rather than on the before-and-after differences. The paper explores these biases in light of our appetite for causal narratives, hindsight, and confirmation biases that taint our perception of history in general. The history of technology reveals how past generations of users experienced extreme change through a stream of dramatic innovations, unmatched in the last quarter century. It also alleges that those historical experience-transforming innovations coexisted with legacy technologies which they leveraged and augmented.
Information Technology looks clean. Individual devices consume little energy, and there are no apparent emissions.
However, the devices require vast amounts of water and energy to create, and are costly to recycle.
In addition, the provision of always-on data, stored in data centers and accessed via the phone network, consumes large amounts of energy (1.6 percent of total US electricity usage in 2006).
The pressure to meet uptime commitments means that many data centers are inefficient in terms of energy use, but many organizations are now taking steps to address this.
Many large organizations have a strong interest in reducing the energy used in data centers, and this aligns with environmental drivers.
By adopting better business practices and implementing hardware and software changes, the industry can help cut down on wasteful computing.
Reviewed by Joe Bugental