Enable your « eco-design » feature by default

Every year, before the winter season, I browse french ski resort sites to try to decide where I’ll go… This year I noticed that some websites had «a plus and leaf» icons in their top header. I noticed it first on Combloux’s site, a small ski resort pretty close to the Mont-Blanc, then I saw it on Megève’s site which is Combloux’s neighbour, and finally on Val Thorens’ website, one of the most known as it’s the biggest ski resort in the world…

The homepage of Val Thorens website

After clicking on that really tiny icons menu pop down, then I got some explanations that it was related to an eco conception stuff, because it offered to «Enable eco-mode». That was quite intriguing, of course I clicked on it and after reloadeding the page, I didn’t notice any changes on the website, it took approximatively the same amount of time to load and every feature seamed to be exactly the same.

It was on Combloux’s site that I noticed a first major change, the video in the header was not starting by default anymore and a picture was replacing the video. After digging a little more I discovered that some dynamic parts (videos, maps, webcam streams, animations) of the website were now static and required an action from the user to be usable. That’s not a huge impact but it can improve load times a bit and make a better user experience.

The three sites had the same leaf icon, the same explanations in the header and the same «This site is Eco-Designed» page, it must be the work of the same company. But why would you engage some work to enhance performances and initially keep it disabled ? Why do people decide that we must display a non-optimized website first, then ask user to do an action to see an optimized version ? Is it not contrary to the concept of progressive enhancement ?

I won’t talk about the fact, these websites have an eco-mode but don’t have optimized images, don’t bundle theirs assets, load almost 3MB of JavaScript… Looks like they did some efforts but didn’t go all the way.

The sad thing, is that his behaviour is not just for websites…

My car has an «Eco» button, that is disabled by default and when it’s enabled the engine rev less and switch gear faster in order to reduce the car consumption, the war is slower to respond but it works well.

Part of a car dashboard with an Eco button enabled

The stupid thing is that when everytime I use my car I have to push that «Eco» button everytime… because I want to save some gaz by consuming less.

A second example is my oven, it has an eco-mode and it’s not the first choice when I turn it on. I have to select which mode I wanto use and the first choice is the default mode, which is more energy consuming and the second choice is the eco-mode (it has a small «e» to indicate that it’s «eco» mode).

An oven dial controller with an eco-mode

Guess what mode I select when I’m not paying attention ? In my opinion it would have been a better choice to invert those buttons, so users select by default the eco-mode and switch to the more energy consuming mode when they need.

Just like those websites, does hiding video, animation, maps will make your navigation less enjoyable ? I don’t think so. Will it bother users to have to click a button to play a video ? I think they’ll survive… My final word on this will be : «Don’t create Eco-mode things», just use it and if you think that it’s necessary to have a «full power» mode add one ! But please save your time and just make it the default for your users…