When we think about how businesses affect the environment, we often turn our attention toward direct sources of carbon emissions like trucks, planes, and electricity.
However, UX design can influence the rise or fall of these emissions levels by shaping how consumers behave and, often, what companies need to deliver. UX plays a key role in influencing the sustainability of our world.
As people and businesses grow more connected online every day, the overlap between the physical and digital worlds is one that no company can ignore.
In this article, we’ll explore exactly how UX design impacts sustainability and what designers can do to limit energy consumption caused by their websites, software, and apps.
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Subtle UX issues lead to large-scale energy waste
When UX design is bad, it naturally drives unnecessary energy usage. Some of the most common mistakes in UX and UI design — such as cluttered interfaces and unclear categories on e-commerce websites — lead users on frustrating and inefficient customer journeys that require extra energy to complete.
Imagine navigating a website with broken buttons in its main menu or illogical calls to action. It takes more time to complete your desired action; eventually, you might give up and go elsewhere to start the process again.
Additionally, when customers are confused, they may need extra support from professionals, expending even more energy from the increased server use.
Making it easy for users to access what they were looking for in the first place is the best way to subtly minimize energy usage, resulting in drastic improvements over time.
Enhance energy efficiency with UX design
Good UX design makes it possible for users to access digital platforms and services in efficient ways — and with ease — to help users reduce their carbon footprint.
For example, adding a prominent, easily usable search box to your website empowers users looking for specific information to skip the guesswork and get straight to the right web page.
Good UX design can be particularly helpful in reducing the environmental impact of e-commerce, an industry with a massive, growing carbon footprint.
By creating an efficient and usable design, designers decrease both consumer and company energy usage. Consumers spend less time online to purchase the things they need, and companies spend less energy trying to fix design flaws or site breakdowns.
As a result, e-commerce businesses can fully hone in on some of the biggest environmental benefits of online stores — like a lack of paper waste and digital transfers of information — without bringing along an abundance of negative side effects.
Good UX encourages consumers to “go green”
The effects of good UX design aren’t always subtle perks. It can completely transform consumer behaviors and encourage them to take actions that align with their environmental values.
For example, Google Flights allows users to display flights with low emissions only. By giving eco-friendly products or services prime positions on a webpage or using design elements to highlight sustainable options, designers can shift consumers’ purchase decisions.
High-quality UX design can make a particularly big impact in the medical field. Telehealth, which allows all sorts of patients to replace in-person visits with pictures and video calls, can be transformative for healthcare’s environmental impact.
By making telehealth appointments as efficient, accurate, and enjoyable for patients as possible, UX designers can encourage more people to take this convenient, transportation-free option. As a result, fewer people will travel to and from medical practices unless they absolutely need to.
Usability testing weeds out sustainability flaws
No UX design team can guarantee perfection. However, conducting usability testing is a quick and easy way to identify the biggest UX problems on your website, app, or software before it launches.
When you observe how people actually move around your platform, you can identify common roadblocks and streamline the user journey.
If you want to continue improving your UX design by understanding the customer experience over time, consider setting up a feedback form or pop-up that users can complete after they complete a task, like making a purchase.
If users experience any issues, they can instantly let you know so you can be proactive about finding new solutions.
UX and sustainability aren’t completely separate
While UX doesn’t directly add to the world’s carbon emissions, it can influence how much energy consumers and companies consume.
Poor UX design leads to a lack of efficiency that requires users to spend more time completing tasks on a platform.
It also may require more professional troubleshooting from IT and design teams. Great UX design, on the other hand, is efficient and encourages consumers to make green choices that lead to extra environmental benefits.
By conducting usability testing, you can identify where your UX — and, therefore, your environmental impact — can improve.