Everything You Need to Know About Green UX

By James Tredwell on November 27, 2019

With the many benefits that technology brings, it also drags along the dark cloud of climate change. This dark cloud hanging over all of us – which is mostly made up of CO2 – is a deadly threat to our future. As a matter of fact, the rise in carbon emissions is largely attributable to the IT sector – the sector that defines the 21st century and includes everyone from tech giants such as Microsoft or Google to UX designers. Connecting the entire globe, the whole sector requires an enormous amount of energy.

If you zoom into it a little, you’ll realize the internet alone is responsible for 300m tonnes of carbon emissions annually, higher than the collective annual output of the aviation sector. A study conducted by Mozilla revealed that data centers alone hold the same carbon footprint as global air travel.

Moreover, now when technologies like 5G come to rule the near future, using up more electricity to deliver data faster, it is a ridiculous idea to ignore the energy consumption linked to IT. The increasing electricity-intensive demands for IT translate into more coal burning.

Luckily, UX designers are playing a role to alleviate this trend of consuming without giving a thought about the repercussions that will follow. The goal is now to deliver a great experience to users while also managing to reduce energy consumption as much as possible. This is where Green UX aka Sustainable UX comes into play.

Sustainable UX design means smarter websites, a better UX, and a greener internet.

3 Ways Sustainable UX Can Help You Reduce Your Carbon Footprint

So designers, it’s time to bid farewell to dirty energy. Take a look into how you can fight back your carbon footprint through sustainable UX.

1. Leverage Remote Tools

It may be surprising, but the digital design can leave a humongous carbon footprint. Sharpies, iPads, business travels – all add up fast. Luckily, they are ripe for reduction.

Secondly, what you can do is minimize traveling. Although it is not as easy as cutting back on stationery, you’ll be astonished how much reducing travel can positively impact the climate. Yes, users have to be interviewed, conferences have to be attended, clients have to be met. But here’s the good news: remote tools are here to save the day. If you’re a typical designer or a web design company in Dallas or located anywhere else for that matter, there are several design-sharing tools like InVision that allow you to easily carry out reviews remotely without disruption. From remote research tools to workshop alternatives, you have various tools to fit your specific needs.

Say, for instance, 900,000 employed UX people around the globe save three tons of CO2 each year, collectively it’d be a saving of 2.7 million tons of CO2 compared to business as usual. That is tantamount to shutting down an entire coal-fired power-station.

2. Save Bytes, Reduce CO2

The next step is to trim down the amount of data your sites and services use to significantly reduce pollution. Just like you may swap a gas-guzzler for a hybrid to decrease your mileage.

Merely switching to green internet services doesn’t fix the issue of internet-derived CO2 emissions, and therefore doesn’t suffice. You may have the power to choose the data center you wish to use. However, once the bits and bytes leave the building, you still have to make your way through the internet – a mixture of CDNs, copper and fiber, home cable, network switches and of course Wi-Fi – while ensuring you have the energy to keep the data moving.

The average web page has mushroomed from a size of 500KB in 2011 to 4MB in 2019. A modern site typically uses multiple JavaScript libraries, high-resolution images, web fonts and video, all of which need to process large volumes of data.

Majority of the designers add these features into their designs without taking into consideration the impact it will have on page size or site speed. Usually, people don’t feel the weight of the web pages due to the fast internet connection. But people on slower connections feel the slowdown when web pages take ages to download.

There are multiple businesses recognizing the benefits of cutting back the data-intensity of their web presence. Basically, minimizing data use speeds up sites and improves the overall user experience. Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean a low-data site will provide a poor user experience. A low-data site can still be attractive and interactive. Guess what you have?  Higher user satisfaction, better conversion and more sustainable UX. It is a win-win situation!

Let’s dig into some remedies that can help you reduce data use. Check your existing URLs through measuring tools like PageSpeed so as to seek suggestions on speeding up your website, cutting down data and thus, saving CO2. Another good trick is to optimize images through tools since images occupy the biggest portion of your site’s data footprint.

3.Use Green Hosting

Stopping to use the web is clearly not an option, but building and powering it the right way can not only make it planet-friendly but also user-friendly. Google, for example, is transitioning to green hosting, powering its server farms with renewable energy. Amazon Web Services (the largest cloud hosting provider) is also moving in that direction but is still relatively dirty.

So when it comes to choosing cloud solutions, look at their green index to know which video streaming platforms or social media we should be using to enhance our sites. You might want to check out GreenPeace’s report to get a better idea. Say when choosing a video provider, you might want to know that YouTube scores an A for sustainability. On the other hand, Vimeo gets a D. This will prove to be extremely helpful.

Wrapping It Up

In the wake of global warming, overlooking the environmental effects of our websites and internet use is a huge blunder. Green UX is an invitation for designers to realize the benefits of internet and identify what is required to keep it going. They need to incorporate Sustainable UX design to keep a tight rein on our energy consumption and move forward in this digitally connected world without harming the environment.

Author Bio :- Loius Martin is a Creative Marketing Manager at Invictus Studio. Along with managing the digital aspects of – a motivational speaker in Atlanta, he does guest blogging for multiple websites.


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