Anja Stork
Published on under Usability, User Experience

Sustainable UX – What Does it Actually Mean?

From Anja Stork

Since the last World Usability Day on November 10, 2016, I have repeatedly come across the topic of “Sustainable UX”. However, despite frequent searches, I could not find a definitive definition of “Sustainable UX”. Since UX is my daily bread, I decided to get closer to the topic of “sustainability”.

I have come across the following definition for “Sustainable Development” from the report of the World Commission on Environment and Development of 1987:


“Sustainable development is development that ensures that future generations are not worse off to meet their needs than those presently living.”


This definition is concretized in the three dimensions: economic, social and environmental; and presented in a three-pillar model of sustainable development. A closer look at the dimensions reveal how complex the topic is and that it relates to all areas of our coexistence.



Economic Sustainability

Economic practice is considered to be economically sustainable if it can be operated on a sustained basis and does not lead to a loss for successive generations. If this vision is implemented in a sustainable corporate strategy, the company’s handling of resources and employees changes. Products that are more efficient and cheaper to manufacture and sell better as they target specific market segments and customer groups are emerging. There is a related interesting interview with Adam Werbach, Global CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi, in the Harvard Business Review.


Social Sustainability

A society should be organized in such a way that social tensions are limited and conflicts do not escalate. To establish social behaviors, as a UX expert, it is worthwhile to deal with the idea of ​​social design. The aim here is to influence people in such a way that they make a pro-social decision to change the current state of society to a better one.

One example of this is Tomorrow’s Menu, a study project presented by Nynke Tromp at the WDCD. This is a platform where organic farmers and consumers meet each other to campaign against factory farming. The farmer presents himself and his company and the consumer can support them with a monthly fee. For this, the consumer is then offered the organic meat of this farmer in the supermarket at the same price as the meat from the factory farm. Thus, the purchase decision for each piece of meat from sustainable livestock is facilitated directly at the POS.


Environmental Sustainability

Ecologically sustainable is a way of life that stresses the natural basis of life to the extent that it regenerates itself. This is probably our greatest challenge with our limited resources and an ever-growing world population. People online might find it interesting, in the context of this article, that I found an article which makes it clear how much electricity the Internet needs.


What can we do as UX Experts?

Now the question arises, what can we do? Should we now commit ourselves to carbon-neutral websites, the paperless office, or do we focus more on social sustainability? I think all these points should be incorporated into our daily work.

I, as a UX consultant and project manager, found it particularly interesting to deepen the approach of Chelsey Delaney from Catalyst alum to a sustainable UX project process. It describes how the education and training of our customers makes them partners with whom we see eye to eye, and how agencies can learn new ways of working and organizational structures, and actively implement them in new projects through their commitment to various customers.

My Conclusion

So, I come to the realization that good UX is also sustainable UX!

In the UX process, targeted solutions for real user needs are developed, which ensures a sensible handling of our resources and leads to better products. And through sustainable cooperation – in the team – an added value is created, which has a positive effect on the interaction with each other.


Tree vector created by Freepik

This Post has been published in Usability, User Experience.
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