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Sustainable web design: the next big trend you probably never heard of

By 16th November 2020No Comments
Web Design Chorley & Web Design Bolton

Web design trends are notorious for changing like the weather. They’re either at the mercy of Google, or a paradigm shift in shapes, colours and typography. One trend that could be set to stick around, however, is sustainable web design.

What is sustainable web design?

To understand the benefits of sustainable web design, first of all we need to get our heads around the impact that running a website has on Planet Earth. Take a look at these jaw-dropping stats:

  • The internet’s annual carbon footprint is 830 million tonnes
  • If the internet were a country, it would rank sixth for electricity usage
  • The internet accounts for 10% of the world’s total electricity consumption

That’s just if we look at the broader internet. If we consider individual websites, we discover that each page of website content produces 4.61 grams of CO2 for every page view. That’s more than 500kg of CO2 per year, based on 10,000 views per month.

The central tenets of sustainable web design involved reducing the load for physical servers. Of course, we can do our bit for the planet by choosing sustainable data centres and green hosting providers, but we can also look at our website as a whole.

Making changes for lower impact loading

To reduce the demand on server farms, we can make changes to our files, and the way content is loaded on the page.

One company that is following this to the letter is Organic Basics. In true reflection of its brand values, Organic Basics will only load website images if you ask it to. Likewise, the site stores more data on devices to minimise data transfer, thereby reducing server load.

So, how can we incorporate these changes into our web design?

1.     Optimising images with responsive design

Responsive web design allows content to adapt to the user’s device, without having to load an entirely different site based on desktop or mobile. We can take this further by changing background images to load ‘minimum’ screen sizes rather than maximum. By default, the device will load the smallest image available, thereby reducing carbon footprint.

2.     Implementing ‘lazy loading’

Lazy loading refers to changing settings so that content only loads on a page if the user navigates to that area. So for example, if yours is a long content page with plenty of images, your user might not always scroll to the bottom. By adding a lazy loading plug-in, we serve our users only with the content they need – and save wasted energy loading unnecessary elements.

3.     Using a content delivery network

Every website has a server in a physical location. When that site gets visitors from further afield, for example international users, that is a large physical distance for data to travel. A content delivery network uses servers located all around the world to essentially duplicate your content. This reduces loading times and, crucially, the carbon footprint.

4.     Culling needless content

This may also be useful for your SEO. If yours is an ecommerce site, for example, with tens of thousands of pages, it’s likely that they’re not all ranking. As designers, we can manually remove unengaging media from sites, but as marketers, we can also check to see the worst performing pages and remove them.

5.     Improving site navigation

Finally, not only will this improve your carbon footprint, but also your user experience. Try running a few usability tests to see if there are any barriers to simple site navigation, like pop-ups or unclear page architecture. The tidier the site, the less time people need to spend browsing before they convert.

Discover more from web designers in Chorley and Bolton

Want to implement these tips for a greener outlook? Speak to the web development team at Tall Zebra Designs today.