Exploring ‘Network Responsive Design’
In this experiment I wanted to create the concept of “Network Responsive Design”. What if digital products and services adapted and displayed different designs depending on the users network connection.
The ways we access the internet are not all equal in terms of energy consumption. Sending data over a mobile network, such as 4G or 5G, uses much more energy than it would over a wired or wifi connection
Measuring this is notoriously tricky and studies have estimated a wide range of different figures, with some calculating the difference in sending data over a mobile network as high as 45 times more energy than wired/wifi and some on the lower side of twice the amount of energy.¹ Others sit more in-between and suggest that 4G consumes 23 times more energy than WiFi.²
The construction of faster mobile networks with wider coverage, such as 5G, require new physical infrastructure and energy to be built and used.³ In Germany, the energy company E-on have estimated that 5G will further increase the rapidly growing electricity demand in data centers by up to 3.8 TWh by 2025. They estimate this is enough to supply around 2.5 million people in Germany for one year.⁴
In this prototype, I have speculated if the BBC news app could have ‘network responsive design’. In this example, when the user opens the news app it would perform a check for their network connection to see if the user was opening it on 4G/5G or Wifi. Then based on this information display either a ‘WiFi edition’ or a ‘4G Edition’ of the news.
The Wifi edition is the same as the normal BBC News app, it shows photos for every news story, video content and graphics. The 4G edition however strips these heavier elements out, lowering the amount of data that needs to be transferred over the more energy intensive mobile network.
All of the news stories and content remain but images are replaced with lightweight unicode symbols indicating the story category. The video content and video tab have been replaced with audio only versions of the video instead. Audio is a lighter and less energy intensive format and one that fits quite well with some scenarios where you may be on a mobile network instead of wifi, such as travelling to work.
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¹ The Green Web Foundation
² Low Tech Magazine
³ Real Life