As we begin to feel a sense of relief that the Age of Aesthetic appeal (thank you iPhone) has finally arrived where touch, sight, and colour also mattered, we are being reminded that we cannot become too complacent. Ux is currently undergoing a silent rebirth that will see massive changes in our focus as practitioners. We have entered the Age of Sustainability and Eco-ethical Awareness – also loosely referred to as “Green.”
Is it a fad?
In my last post I was thrilled to see the visceral reaction of some of my industry colleagues on having a conviction about Usability being a commodity. As someone still practicing and who feels passionate about what I do I welcome a change in approach to UX – a rebirth. Usability, I uphold from the outside looking in, is commodified. The impression that anyone can do it is simply the reality. I again uphold: “No, not everyone can do it.” But sometimes our cues must be taken from impressions that others have of us and and not where we think we are.
The same holds true for the many overworked designers who are being asked to generate wireframes and proofs of concept as if there was no thought to the process. Moving into the age where Functionality and Aesthetics are now married, it is even more difficult to separate traditional usability from design and to say that one isn’t commoditize and the other is so.
The curve ball is now thrown when we now welcome yet another traveller on the road to UX journey. That traveller is Sustainable Design. Call it “green” or “eco ethical” but it is here to stay.
So what does this mean for the field of UX?
With this new paradigm shift, the need to understand how UX practitioners should support this evolution is critical. A more strategic positioning of UX and open dialog on the future of UX is critical. We need to become key drivers in the age of Sustainability and Eco-ethical Awareness,
Consumers have changed along with the global landscape. A recent US Forrester poll indicates that there are growing green concerns with about 25 million (approximately 12%) would pay more for green products with and growing 41% who, while they are concerned can’t afford to pay more. Consider now – what if the cost of green products was more affordable? How then would design have to change to address a growing demand?
How can UX be roped into a “Cradle to Grave to Rebirth” approach of Product development? To first understand our many possibilities it is important that we have a good understanding of what it all means: “Green”, Sustainable, Eco-ethical awareness” and the fadish lingo that has us all clutching at air. I use the terms interchangeably and borrow from many existing definitions:
In the context of User Experience, “sustainable design” is the philosophy of designing products, space and or services, to comply with the principles of economic, ecological social, and cultural sustainability. In driving the ideas home in our respective companies we need however to think of it as:
strategy that ensures the UX field survives, thrives and evolves by following emerging trends that connects end user research to product design and overall user experience
The goal of sustainable design is to “eliminate negative environmental impact completely through skillful and sensitive design” – the idea that products must aim at being recyclable. A product designed with these new principles should work towards a model of cradle to grave to rebirth.
The applications of sustainable design philosophy range from the design on just about everything from small every day products to larger architecture structure to urban and planning, engineering, graphic, interaction and industrial design. Theses ideals of sustainable design principles also received a great thrust of attention from Janine Benyus’s theories on Biomimicry – a new discipline that studies nature and how we can use designs in nature to imitate and solve designs problems.
Why should we care as Ux practitioners?
In the future we need to be closely integrated across design and research teams to address the new challenges that we face as experience designers. There are many factors that will drive the need for tighter alliances across Ux:
1. Increasing consumer focus on sustainable practices is a trend that favours growth in sustainable customer experience management and the need for advisory and consulting services where User Research can play a role based on previous understanding of users in general.
2. Increasing compliance and regulatory requirements will create an opportunity for designers to drive insightful solutions based on informed research. Embracing this will provide tremendous advantage to those innovative companies that buy in early.
3. Significant opportunity to take share with a focus on sustainable customer experience services, integrated with managing brand perception and a focus on the bottom line.
It is expected in the next few years, as we all come to terms with understanding our role in the Green era, new methodologies, frameworks and ideas will come together to provide exciting possibilities. Currently many of us are in the stage of thought and processing of our new realities. We must collectively and openly discuss the scope of engagement as we forge ahead, with less pliability and more strategic approach. Ultimately our contribution must be tied into the bottom-line.
Top image by Micky