When thinking about sustainability, many things may come to mind from compost piles, Ben & Jerry’s, recycling, reusable K-Cups, Zac Efron’s charm in Netflix’s Down to Earth series, and more. Sustainability is defined as the ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level; avoidance of the depletion of natural resources to maintain an ecological balance (Oxford Dictionary).
So what does sustainability have to do with user experience design? Sustainability is a major trend in UX design by placing pressure on businesses to make all products including digital ones more sustainable. Consumers are demanding that businesses be held more responsible and accountable for their impact on the environment and user experience design is no exception.
Chipotle recently launched a virtual farmers market for its sustainable food suppliers. The guac giant has agreed to pay for the platform for two years to create a no-cost e-commerce solution for the local farmers which they source key ingredients. The farmers get a free online Shopify-powered digital storefront during the COVID-19 pandemic as they are unable to sell to restaurants that they normally supply, while Chipotle gets some seriously good PR (Robinhood Snacks 2020).
Temple University also recently teamed up with local eco-friendly small businesses and nonprofits affected by COVID-19 and is providing free digital services including website design, digital storefronts, and e-commerce platforms (Temple University 2020).
“If we choose to consider sustainability as a factor in the design phase, the constraints of a specific product give designers the space to make concrete solutions for otherwise abstract issues. This can be applied to the production and after-life of the product, but also the user experience” (M Above). UX designers play a critical role in designing products and platforms that influence users’ decisions to make more ethical and environmentally conscious choices.
For example, food ordering apps like GrubHub and Caviar allow you to opt-out of receiving paper products and plastic cutlery with your order or round up to the nearest dollar for charitable donations. Other companies may offer an incentive or credit for selecting a slower shipping process or use feedback to notify users that selecting ground shipping vs. air shipping uses less fuel and lowers the environmental impact. By making these options more visible, convenient, and accessible, it allows users to actively participate in change and make an impact during the purchasing process. UX designers can help by designing products and apps that help businesses and consumers come together to consume more responsibly.
Chipotle Farmers Market. (2020). Retrieved 2020, from https://farmersmarket.chipotle.com/
Chipotle’s eFarmers Market – Robinhood Snacks. (2020). Retrieved July 21, 2020, from https://snacks.robinhood.com/newsletters/1QlBdyZdWIxeoIq5tzuYmq/
Lev, B. (2019, August 05). Environmental ethics in design. Retrieved July 21, 2020, from https://uxplanet.org/environmental-ethics-in-design-67b03feaa5e5
Sustainability: Definition of Sustainability by Oxford Dictionary on Lexico.com also meaning of Sustainability. (n.d.). Retrieved July 18, 2020, from https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/sustainability
Sustainable User Experience. F Heibeck. Retrieved August 1, 2020 from https://medium.com/a-view-from-above/sustainable-user-experience-8260006f5232
Temple students help small businesses pivot in response to COVID-19 pandemic. (2020, July 07). Retrieved July 21, 2020, from https://www.fox.temple.edu/posts/2020/06/temple-students-help-small-businesses-pivot-in-response-to-covid-19-pandemic/