Tips for creating an energy efficient website
Author: Steve Goy
15th February 2021
The environmental impact of your website...
Hopefully you’re in the good habit of thinking about the sustainability of the physical things that help you win business and do business, including packaging design, printed materials and corporate gifts. If we have the pleasure of considering you a client, we’ve got you covered! Yet have you thought about the environmental impact of your online presence? We’d hazard and guess that very few of you have. It’s certainly worth having some of the core principals of energy efficient website design on your radar.
“The environmental impacts of our ever-increasing digital world cannot be ignored. The ICT industry accounts for around 2.5 – 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions and this is predicted to rise to 14% by 2040.” (Assessing ICT global emissions footprint: Trends to 2040 & recommendations, 2018)
The easiest place to start, but not necessarily control, is the amount of renewable energy your website is powered by.
If you aren’t running your own server and don’t have a green energy provider, (at Systematic we’re proud to use Bulb), then its likely that you’re not running on 100% renewable energy 24/7. The impact of your website on the National Grid depends on various factors, including the weather and concurrent load, basically the level of demand. One way to check the more ‘energy hungry’ browsing times and websites is to use the National Grid’s Carbon Intensity API service, the first service of its kinds in the world. It’s been developed by some big names in the environment and conservation arena, including Environmental Defense Fund Europe, University of Oxford Department of Computer Science and WWF. The aim is that developers can then help people to plan their energy use, using their devices when energy is green and turning them off when its not.
When it comes to web content there are lots of things to consider; images, videos, fonts, light emission and caching
All of this can sound a bit technical and daunting, but don’t worry, there are many simple things you can do to create a more energy efficient website. One of the easiest things to do is to minimise the use of large images. Make sure your images are optimised for the size they are intended to be viewed at. You can also scale images down on mobile devices, as they don’t need to be as large as their desktop equivalents. Using a plugin is one easy way of achieving this with minimal effort and technical knowledge.
Think about the font you use across your site, a default system font will shorten load time, reducing the amount of energy that is used to recall information. Using a light weight font and avoiding a pure white background will achieve the same effect too, by reducing light emissions.
Videos are engaging but are big on energy consumption
If you’re prioritising the development of a website with a low environmental impact, you may want to eliminate videos from your website. A compromise would be to use GIFs, a moving image file that uses less energy than a standard video file.
Fancy a minimalist energy efficient website?
Imagine if your website used a standard lightweight system font and had no images or videos? Whilst that does seem a bit extreme, it is exactly what many companies are doing… sort of. They still have their all singing and dancing ‘normal’ website but they also have a sister site which is accessible via a sub URL. It’s a compromise that avoids alienating those who like visually dynamic websites! Other brands are deploying their minimalist website when there’s a high demand on electricity from the National Grid, the website auto redirects to the ‘light’ version, reverting back to the standard version when the demand reduces.
Consideration of the environmental impact of websites is only in its infancy, yet we’ll definitely be hearing more on this theme in the coming years.
If you’d like us to give you some feedback on your website, feel free to get in touch!
Enquire about having an energy efficient website
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