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There are many other frameworks describing sustainable products, services, and workflows in other areas of design, a few of which are listed here:

However, there are many useful ideas in the following frameworks:

One goal of the Sustainable Web Design Group is to adapt useful features from these frameworks into a sustainability framework specific to the web.

Here is a possible breakdown of sustainable principles for the web, game and interactive world, adapted from the list developed by Nathan Shredoff in his book, Design is the Problem: The Future of Design Must Be Sustainable:

General Sustainability Principle Sustainable Web Design Goals
Make meaningful products Make websites that are have real value, not fashion or tech-tricks
Easy design rollback Iterative or Agile design workflow
Source Renewable Materials  Switch to a “Green” webhost
Design products to work in the future  Implement classic design strategies
Design with the user in mind  Create effective User Experience (UX)
Ensure democratic access  Build accessible, responsive websites
Interchangable Parts Apply standards-based design
Minimize energy and resource consumption Web Performance Optimization (WPO)
Don’t corrupt the virtual system  Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Another possible formulation for sustainable web design comes from the Permaculture movement. Here is a list from the Staydiligent blog with some additions by myself:

Permaculture Sustainability Principle Sustainable Web Design Goals
Observe and Interact Build sites as part of an interdependent community
Catch and store energy Cache information, update sites rather the build completely new ones
Obtain a yield The site should provide positive value to the client, and larger web community, not a time or money sink
Apply self-regulation and accept feedback The site should have “reporter” technology for use, efficiency and ultimately carbon footprint can be tracked and used for revisions
Use and value renewable resources and services Use efficient virtual services (e.g. green webhosts)
Produce no waste Sites should be steady-state, not causing an accumulation of e-junk (files, stored data) in themselves or on the Internet
Design from patterns to details Start with group-design techniques like Progressive Enhancement
Integrate rather than segregate Connect your site to others, and create value by interconnection of websites instead of portal-style content provisions
Use small & slow solutions Design for the low end first, instead of starting with the bleeding edge
Use & value diversity Use local designers, developers, webhosts of big “cloud” services with low green scores
Use edges & value the marginal Support communication at the edges – old browsers, platforms, slow networks
Creatively use & respond to change Use, don’t avoid new technologies that promise sustainability, e.g. imageless design with CSS

-Pete Markiewicz

3 Responses to Frameworks

  • Greg Bunting

    Hi – Are there any published guidelines for Digital Accessibility Design (Web and Apps) that the WC3 has?

    I’m looking to incorporate existing guidelines into our design/dev teams tool set. I prefer to use something that might exist already from a creditable organization like WC3.

    We already have great guidelines for Accessibility but having a hard time find this for Sustainability.


  • Hi Greg, there aren’t any bona fide standards (yet) for sustainable web design. However, that’s what this group is meant to explore. I think many members would like to see guidelines officially submitted to the W3C for consideration, similar to what’s been done with digital accessibility and WCAG.

    In the meantime, Mightybytes and Wholegrain Digital, two B Corp agencies, partnered to create this site:

    It breaks down digital sustainability principles into several core categories: design, development, hosting, content & marketing, project ethos, and business operations.

    It also includes links to many resources for further in-depth reading. We welcome suggestions on additional strategies as well.

    I hope that’s helpful.


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