For this year's World Usability Day, Human Factors International sponsored an essay contest on the theme, "How can the User Experience Community support the future of sustainability?"
It turns out I won the contest, and I will soon be the proud owner of a new Kindle.
Check out some of the other entries as well. Here's a cross-post of my entry:
The user experience community can make a powerful contribution to future sustainability by demonstrating the fundamentals of user-centered design to a world in need of radical new solutions. We can do this because we understand how to solve fundamental problems of human behavior.
First, we can help identify the underlying needs, tasks, and motivations that drive non-sustainable behaviors, e.g.,
Second, we can propose creative alternatives that are perceived as enhancements rather than sacrifices.
- Why do humans drive cars?
- Why do we spend billions on bottled water each year?
- Why do people in poor nations repeat the self-destructive mistakes of rich nations?
And third, we can lower barriers to adoption of sustainable alternatives by designing highly usable solutions.
Widespread success will require our efforts to be tightly focused initially, then highly visible, and then broadly dispersed.
Focused: By Q2, 2010, convene an international panel of opinion leaders from the user experience, sustainability, and business communities to produce a short list of focus areas for demonstration projects.
Visible: From Q3, 2010 through 2011, organizations across disciplines issue calls for papers, proposals, and solutions that demonstrate the power and relevance of user experience to sustainability in each focus area. Using common themes and cross-industry publicity, establish in the public mind the concept that the most practical and powerful solutions to sustainability problems result from user-centered design.
Dispersed: By 2012, the seeds planted by the demonstration projects begin to take root and spread as organizations, on their own initiative, increasingly direct their efforts toward user-centered sustainability.
The global community can only achieve sustainability by collaborating to design and adopt new solutions—solutions that solve our most basic problems, address our underlying motivations, and are easy to use. The user experience community has the theory, the science, and the passion to lead the way forward.