A sustainable design mindset

Once in a while, I go down the rabbit hole of evaluating the value of my work. It's a yearly exercise that inspires me to keep reading and learning. I would like to share some of my recent findings.

A short history

When I first started designing for the web, I learned more about the user's experience and the tension between marketing and usability. After a while, I started coding and found the need to design performant and accessible websites. Which made me care more about the many ethical, social and environmental challenges that emerge from building digital products.

I felt confident that the skills I learned made me a better designer, but it was becoming a lot to focus on. Abandoning one area to favour another seemed like the easy solution.

But then I read the excellent Designing for Sustainability book and discovered the Sustainable UX conference . Maybe this was the way forward?

It's all connected

Let's take a look at the definition of sustainability:

Sustainability is the process of maintaining change in a balanced environment. In which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development and institutional change are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations.

Source: Wikipedia

This translates nicely to a sustainable design mindset. In which design and development can serve your business while respecting our planet and meeting human needs.

When we apply this to designing websites and products:

  • Support the people working on the product and optimise the IT infrastructure.
    Be helpful to people and write performant code.
  • Respect the time and diversity of the people using the product.
    Design and build with usability and accessibility in mind.
  • Find a balance between marketing and cost.
    Be critical about the cost (energy and budget), business value and intended use.

Where to start?

The Sustainable web manifesto offers you some guiding principles that you can follow to start making changes today.

Also, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does my website/product respect human needs?
  • Is my website/product easy to use and accessible?
  • How much carbon dioxide does my website/product produce? (You can use this calculator )

The journey continues

It's early days, and I aim to design a bit more sustainable everyday. I maintain a page with articles and tools related to sustainable design, ethics and accessibility. In the future, I'll write more on how you can apply this mindset practically and realistically.

Questions or suggestions? Get in touch! I hope to continue the conversation.

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  • Practice what you preach

    As much as I enjoy thinking about concepts and perfecting the result, the act of creating is where I feel like I'm making a real difference. As a result, I'm a big advocate of prototyping, testing and iterating as fast as possible.