Achieving sustainability, reducing one’s carbon footprint, “going green,” whatever one might call it, has gone from being a peripheral concern supported by a relative few—but dedicated—group of people, to a mainstream issue, talked, videoed, printed, blogged, and Twittered about among the masses on a daily basis…thanks in part to those earlier savants and prophets, but also catalyzed by a growing list of dangerous, potentially lethal circumstances.
What can or should UX professionals take away from the commotion and the discussions? What actions are relevant, significant, and perhaps even mandatory? We explore some of these important themes in our special issue devoted to sustainability. Our issue coincides with World Usability Day 2009’s focus on sustainability.
Roger Munger leaps right into the subject of going green and provides nine questions that UX professionals can ask themselves about how to lessen a product’s negative impact on the Earth.
Lucinio Santos discusses some different ways of experiencing change, comparing the impact of information and communication technology over the last thirty years to those of previous centuries. He argues that people today tend to forget how dramatic previous revolutions were. He also believes we overlook the “algorithmic” nature of change and tend to focus on cumulative innovation, which distorts the perceived effect with the cumulative impact of previous contributing technological innovation, and causes us to lose sight of before-and-after differences.
Gerry Gaffney focuses squarely on a sustainability in data centers and “digs up the dirt” regarding clean computing. He draws our attention to what better business practices in hardware and software can do to reduce the wasteful computing processes that currently characterize our data processing centers.
Jeremie Jean and I report on a prototype mobile device intended to take advantage of the upcoming deployment of a Smart Grid in our electrical system that can encourage home energy conservation. The approach combines information design and persuasion design in a way that UX professionals may consider applying to other products and services.
Michele Visciola, Erin O’Loughlin, and Irene Cassarino describe a related, alternative, user-centered approach regarding encouraging people to consume less and more carefully. They were involved with a project to devise a sustainable urban district in Finland. The authors’ role was to initiate behavioral change to support a sustainable lifestyle. They describe their comprehensive strategy incorporating physical, social, and cultural factors.
The update about World Usability Day by Elizabeth Rosensweig includes comments by several authors, including Nathan Shedroff, a noted proponent of sustainable design. His contribution is drawn from his much-mentioned recent book Design is the Problem, which is reviewed separately in this issue. In addition, Brian Sullivan provides insights on sustainable home design, Martha Sippel provides tips on Xeriscaping, and Joe Bugental describes his struggle to live a green life. Also, Roberto Holguin discusses life near the Base of the Pyramid, and Tema Frank offers a possible solution to website content management.
Our topic is timely. Together with Usability Day 2009’s activities, UX readers will be better prepared to assess what is going on in all aspects of society and what steps they can take personally and professionally to go green.
As a final, important note, I wanted to let the readership know that this is my last issue as Editor-in-Chief of User Experience. I have decided to step down after five years, at a time when the publication seems in good shape and in good hands. I have enjoyed the stewardship of UX. The list of people whom I would like to thank and acknowledge is too long to mention in this limited space, including all the Guest Editors of special issues. I do want to state that I have benefited greatly from the able assistance, in particular, of the Managing Editors with whom I have had the pleasure of working closely: Susan Fowler, Alice Preston, Gerry Gaffney, and currently Chris Koster. I also want to thank Ryan Swanson, UX graphic designer from Red Mat Media, with whom I worked closely this past year to redesign the publication format. Fortunately, the article pipeline and ad sales are strong, the Editorial Board has approximately doubled in size, and we have a good track record/brand in our own community and in other professions as well. I expect to see other great achievements in the future of UX and hope to be able to contribute from time to time. I wish all involved continued success.