About World Usability Day 2009: Designing for a Sustainable World

World Usability Day (WUD) was founded in 2005 as a UPA initiative.  Each year, on the second Thursday of November, events are organized around the world to raise the public’s awareness of the need for products that are easier to access and simpler to use. WUD is about making our world work better. It’s about “Making Life Easy” and user friendly. Technology today is too hard to use. A cell phone should be as easy to access as a doorknob. In order to humanize a world that uses technology as an infrastructure for education, healthcare, transportation, government, communication, entertainment, work and other areas, we must develop these technologies in a way that serves people first.

In 2009, WUD approaches design from Cradle to Cradle, and approach that starts design with the premise of using materials that can fully enter a new lifecycle by either going back to nature or going back into the design process as a new product. This holistic approach to sustainable design shows how usability can apply to all of what we do and build.

Designing for a Sustainable World events and forums will focus on how products and services impact our world. Programs will look at all products and services, whether they are buildings, roads, consumer products, businesses, services, or healthcare systems, throughout their lifecycle. The impact focuses on the environment, energy, water, soil, and more. Have the materials and processes that have been used been recycled and are they reusable? Are they user and environmentally friendly? These are questions that must be considered as we design, purchase, use, and dispose of products each and every day.

Human-centered design directly supports the first two pillars of sustainability:

  • Economic – Matching a design to user’s needs and abilities enhances its utilization, quality, and efficiency, thus providing cost effective solutions and reducing the likelihood that systems products and services will be rejected by their users.
  • Social - Taking a human-centered approach results in systems, products, and services that are better for the health and well-being of their users, including users with disabilities.

Human-centered design also supports the environmental component by promoting a whole lifecycle approach to design. It explicitly encourages all those involved in design to consider the longer-term implications of their system for their users, and therefore, for the environment.

World Usability Day 2009 will serve as an impetus to creating greater awareness for designs, products, and services that improve the sustainability of the world.

What follows is a series of personal essays on sustainability.

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