HOW CAN DIGITAL RESPONSIBILITY IMPROVE THE USER EXPERIENCE?

  • 22 Mar 2023

DIGITAL RESPONSIBILITY AND THE USER EXPERIENCE 1/2: ECO-DESIGN AND USES
 

A hot topic today, “digital responsibility” reduces the negative effects of digital technology on the environment and society. This is a multi-tiered approach that covers every stage of a product’s life cycle and that aims to improve practices in order to satisfy the three main pillars of sustainable development: planet, people and profits. But digital responsibility can also be a fantastic point of leverage for improving the user experience, because it naturally ties in which its challenges of durability, effectiveness, efficiency and accessibility. 


DID YOU SAY “DIGITAL RESPONSIBILITY”? 


We know that digital transformation is turning the business world upside down and enabling significant improvements in terms of access to information, innovation and performance.


But it also has side effects that come from running searches using a search engine, storing files, sending email, and the list goes on. Each of these small actions that are part of our daily lives has repercussions on the climate, biodiversity and the exhaustion of natural resources. The internet’s share of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is now twice as high as annual emissions from aviation around the world. The ecological footprint of digital technology already accounts for 2.5% of France’s national carbon footprint, leading to a direct increase in the country’s energy footprint by 9% per year. In addition, digital technology is also deepening existing gaps and causing inequality in people’s access to and use of technology. This digital divide is geographic and societal but also generational.


Digital responsibility has emerged in an effort to counter those negative effects. This approach follows a path that aims to make a positive impact, economically speaking, but also socially, societally and environmentally. As a result, digital responsibility makes it possible to work on different levels and on every stage in a digital product’s life cycle, to reduce our environment impact and improve our social impact, among other benefits. 


Accessibility, eco-design, personal data privacy and green IT are just some of the concepts that, when backed by regulations and/or best practices, provide guidance and a framework for these strategies. But, in addition to having an environmental and social impact, digital responsibility is a real lever for innovation and improvements in the user experience.


 
 
LESS IS MORE: STRIPPING AWAY THE EXCESS TO MEET REAL NEEDS


Navigating a website consumes energy. The more complex the site, the more CO² it will emit. So, one of the core principles of digital responsibility is eco-design (environmental design).  Eco-design is based on the notion that “less is more.” That expression was popularized by the German architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, one of the masters of the modern movement. It essentially stands for minimalism in the pursuit of perfection, that identifies and eliminates anything superfluous, resulting in the definition of a product that perfectly performs its functions. 


In other words, the goal is to identify all essential, fundamental functionalities of a digital tool or service and then strip away any unnecessary functions, leaving only the core. And to offer a service that is less resource-hungry and more energy-sober. This way of thinking about and conceptualizing the digital experience benefits the environment but also users: by adopting a streamlined strategy, users are no longer overwhelmed by a flood of needless functionalities and journeys. Instead, they are offered optimized services tailored to their needs. 


THE VERY ESSENCE OF A USER-CENTRIC DESIGN


But this kind of optimization can’t take place without an in-depth understanding of your users and their needs. The challenge is to listen, understand and analyze your users and their behavior, because prioritization will only be effective and relevant if you have perfect knowledge of their expectations and habits.
Eco-design necessarily calls for a precise, detail user knowledge strategy, which could involve user interviews, surveys, shadowing, analytics, focus groups and so on, that will enable the functional optimization of the service. Not to mention the creation of a streamlined, and therefore eco-designed, product that, by its very nature, revolves around users and what they actually need. This will yield a relevant, appropriate product that provides an optimized user experience tailored to their needs.
 
The RGESN (General Framework for the Eco-Design of Digital Services) is a reference document that was created by the Green Tech Interministerial Mission. It is designed to help reduce the use of computer and energy resources and of user, network and server equipment.


 
WANT TO LEARN MORE AND LAUNCH YOUR OWN DIGITAL RESPONSIBILITY STRATEGY?


Smile and UX-Republic are here to assist you with your digital responsibility strategy and with all of the various subjects related to eco-design, accessibility, the GDPR and strategic autonomy. You can also check out our UX/UI eco-design training, GDPR training and accessibility training.
 
Further reading about digital responsibility and eco-design: 
 


Sources: World Health Organization, INR (Digital Responsibility Institute), ADEME (French Environment & Energy Management Agency) and Ecologie.gouv.fr

 

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