Challenge

Design an experience that reduces the carbon footprint of cloud storage users

Advisor

Focus areas

  • Design research
  • Systems thinking
  • Visual design
  • UX writing

Deliverables

  • Personas and journey maps
  • Competitive analyses
  • Flow maps
  • Sketches and wireframes

My process in theory

My process in reality

The cloud has many benefits

Existing cloud storage services like Dropbox, iCloud, and Google Drive provide many benefits.

Accessibility

Access any file from any device

Convenience

Automatically backup your files

Collaboration

Easily share files with others

But how sustainable is the cloud?

Compared to saving a file to your personal computer, saving it to the cloud requires about a million times more energy. Moreover, 28% of public cloud storage users keep inactive data there and 36% of companies overpay for cloud storage services they don’t need.

Saving a file to your personal computer requires

0.000005

kWh per gigabyte

Saving a file to the cloud requires

7

kWh per gigabyte

Defining the problem statement

The cloud comes with many benefits, but it’s not very sustainable. By using more cloud storage space than we really need, we’re using more energy and spending more money than necessary.

Understanding cloud storage users

After defining the problem statement, I set out to better understand people’s mental models, general behaviours, and specific actions around cloud storage services.

Mental models

How well do people understand the cloud and its environmental impact?

Behaviors

What cloud storage services are people using and how are they using them?

Actions

When do people delete their files and what prevents them from doing so?

Online survey results

When sending out an online survey, I decided to 28 to 24 year-olds, since they’re the most active cloud storage users. Surprised by the results, I switched to ethnographic interviews to understand why.

10%

Can accurately explain how the cloud works

10%

Have thought about its environmental impacts

Ethnographic interview findings

When doing ethnographic interviews, I asked people to show me how they use their cloud accounts and found that there are two types of people when it comes to organizing and deleting files and folders: those that don’t know how, and those that are too scared to.

Sarah

  • 19 years old
  • Studies communication
  • Owns five Google Drive accounts
  • Spends $0 on cloud storage services

“There’s just too much to do, and I wouldn’t even know how to do it.”

“The last time my Google Drive account got too messy, I simply created a new account.”

Jack

  • 24 years old
  • Works as a software developer
  • Owns 1 Dropbox account
  • Spends $9.99 per month

“I’ve definitely pulled some all nighters trying to organizing my files and folders.”

“I’m worried that I might need them in the future, and upgrading is not even that expensive.”

Drawing a parallel with the physical space

Doing these interviews got me thinking that having a cloud account is pretty similar to having a garage: the more space you have, the more stuff you store and the longer you wait with cleaning it up, the less likely you are to do so. But cleaning up your cloud account shouldn’t have to take nearly as much time and energy as cleaning up your garage since we’re dealing with digital files, not physical things.

Understanding existing cloud storage services

In addition to better understanding cloud storage users, I also wanted to better understand existing cloud storage services. The main takeaway from creating a direct competitor analysis, was that none of them automate file and folder organization and deletion for their users. Moreover, none of them mention the energy usage of their data centers.

Defining the value proposition

For existing cloud storage services, Clean Cloud is an API that increases their top line growth, quality, and ethical standards. As a result, end users will benefit from already existing features, as well as automatic cloud cleaning, lower costs, and reduced energy usage.

Ideating touchpoints

Instead of jumping straight into sketching wireframes, I first mapped out the current touch points of Dropbox, iCloud, and Google Drive.

Sketching wireframes

After identifying the most effective touch points, I started sketching wireframes while keeping in mind both general and brand-specific UX writing principles.

Mocking up the experience

First of all, users will be able to see how much energy they’re using compared to the average user.

Secondly, users will be able to automatically organize their folders and name their files.

Moreover, users will be able to delete duplicate files and obsolete folders.

Finally, upgrading to Clean Cloud will be more affordable than increasing storage space. As a result, users will not only be saving time and energy, but money as well.

Proposing next steps

The obvious next step would be to invite feedback from users, especially when it comes to automatically organizing folders and naming files. How much control do they want and need?

Additionally, I would like to approach existing cloud storage services to see how they respond to the idea. How are they already thinking about this carbon footprint challenge?