Designing for Sustainability: A Guide to Creating Greener Digital Products and Services

New O'Reilly Book


I've begun work on a new book for O'Reilly Media that will be released in early Summer 2016. Tentatively titled Designing for Sustainability: A Guide to Creating Greener Digital Products and Services, the book will focus on how digital design teams can build online products and services that are optimized for users, devices, and energy efficiency. The internet has a massive carbon footprint and releases over 830M tons of CO2 annually, more than the airline industry. This new book outlines a set of practices that can be applied to the process of creating more sustainable websites or mobile apps in several key areas: performance optimization, findability, usability, and green hosting. The book's content is based on the work Mightybytes has done with our website sustainability tool Ecograder and our sustainable web design blog series.

One of the first tasks is to work with the O'Reilly team to choose the book's cover animal. Since the 1980s, O'Reilly Media has placed animal illustrations on its title covers to raise awareness for the plight of wild animals around the planet. According to O'Reilly Director of Brand Management Edie Freedman, "working with the animal engravings has made me much more aware of what is happening to our environment. Many of the animals that appear on our covers are endangered…Perhaps our use of animal images on our covers will encourage people to work harder to save the species that are still sharing the planet with us."

Given the book's environmental perspective, it's easy to see why O'Reilly was a natural fit to be its publisher. Will the new book cover feature the nearly endangered American Pika (which gets my vote, though it has been used for an O'Reilly title before)? The extinct Golden Toad? Or will it be something else, like the endangered Balkan Lynx in silhouette above? Only Edie knows.

TEDx Talk on Internet Sustainability

The internet isn’t quite the green medium that everyone thinks it is. Every app we open, every tweet we share requires electricity, and very little of that electricity—less than 15% in the U.S.—comes from renewable sources. When you consider that over 3 billion people use the internet every day, that’s a lot of electricity!

In this TEDx Talk presented at Bentley University and based on the content of a new book I’m working on, I discuss how the internet has amassed a growing annual carbon footprint of 830M tons—more than the airline industry—and what we can do about it.


New Book! Return on Engagement, 2nd Edition, Now Available

Return on Engagement: Content Strategy and Web Design Techniques for Digital Marketing, 2nd Edition

The second edition of Return on Engagement: Content Strategy and Web Design Techniques for Digital Marketing is now out. While the title is only slightly different from the first edition, the book is a complete rewrite. Only about 5-10% of the original copy made the cut for this new edition.

The new book is broken down into three sections:

  1. Strategy
  2. Creation & Promotion
  3. Measurement

Each section covers proven design strategies and content techniques that can be used to create websites that meet business and marketing objectives and drive measurable success.

This was also my first time working with a co-author: the incomparable Kate Eyler-Werve, author of O’Reilly’s Civic Apps Competition Handbook. Kate is a great collaborator and really helped keep the book on track throughout the 9+ months that we vollied words and ideas back and forth.


Order Return on Engagement Now

Agile Content: Lessons from Lean Startups Presentation

Agile Content: Lessons from Lean Startups Presentation

Agile Content: Lessons from Lean Startups

This slide deck, originally presented at Content Jam 2013, compares agile methodologies, growth hacking and Lean Startup principles to content life cycles. It covers how Mightybytes used these concepts to build our content-driven web application Ecograder, which crawls websites and grades them on sustainability criteria.

Key learning objectives:

  • Seven tips for growth hacking content strategy
  • Hypothesis testing for rapid idea iteration
  • Old or new: waterfall  vs. agile content workflows


Here’s the full presentation from SlideShare:

Content Jam 2013: Story, Science, Strategy and Very Social

Kicking off the day...

Our 2nd annual Content Jam conference, a day-long event for those who create or curate web content, took place last week at Columbia College’s Film Row Cinema building.

The sold-out content party drew 150+ attendees eager to learn about everything from SEO and keyword research to best practices in measuring performance metrics and telling engaging stories. With tracks on strategy, content creation and writing, promotion, and measurement spread across 18 different presentations, there was certainly enough content to consume at this jam. Lunch, a Write Club competition, and an after-party down the street offered plenty of social and entertainment opportunities as well.

The crew at Lightspan Digital did a great job capturing the spirit of the entire day using Storify: embedded tweets, Vine videos, photos from the day, and even a conversation via our trending hashtag with Chicago Fire actor David Eigenberg. The folks at Orbit Media published a detailed Content Jam recap as well with lots of video, links, and other content. Orbit Media also had a fun photoset on Flickr.


A Social Impact

As an event produced by three B Corps, it’s no surprise that we had a social impact as well:

  • A portion of the proceeds will benefit Barrel of Monkeys, a Chicago-based organization that teaches literacy to Chicago Public Schools students through storytelling and performance.
  • Leftover food was donated to the awesome folks at First Slice, who used it to feed the homeless via their community outreach programs.

We are already looking into Content Jam 2014 and will make giving back an integral part of the programming for next year.


A Low Impact

As B Corps, it is also important for us to keep the event’s environmental impact as low as possible too. We’re not event producers by trade, we’re marketers, storytellers and web geeks, so I think we still have some room for improvement here, but nonetheless sustainability was a recurring topic that came up again and again throughout planning. Here’s where we kept impact low this go-round:

  • Morning coffee cups were compostable and napkins made out of recycled paper.
  • Buttons in the button machine were made of recycled steel at Busy Beaver’s solar powered button factory.
  • Where possible, printing was done on recycled paper. (In the case of signage, unfortunately, that wasn’t an option this year . . . we’ll work harder on that next year.)
  • Lunch was served on compostable plates with compostable napkins.
  • We recycled all lanyards and chains. In fact, recycling bins were everywhere!

Next year, I’d like to reach out to other B Corps and figure out how we might make this event even more low-impact while still providing the high-quality experience that we did this year.


Our Awesome Sponsors

So many people helped us put this successful event together by providing time, materials, space, discounts and so on. Many, many thanks to our sponsors and volunteers:


The Presentations

We had a lot of great speakers and incredible content. The folks from T60 Productions were interviewing attendees and speakers while animator George Berlin captured several of the presentations with live animations that were played back during lunch.

Sketch Notes by George Berlin 3

Many of the presentation decks were uploaded to SlideShare as well. The folks at Orbit Media captured them in this of the presentation decks. Click the link if you want review all the decks. Some good stuff in there!


Content Jam 2014

Yup, we’re already talking about it. Attendees have given us some great feedback on what we can improve and how to make the next Content Jam even more useful, fun, educational, and of course, sharable. Jill, Andy, Amanda and I look forward to sharing more info as we figure things out. Hope to see you there!

On that note, I’ll leave you with this awesome slideshow of photos taken during the day by Jeff Livorsi:

See you next year!