Web design practices have more of an environmental impact than we may realize
As designers, we can always work towards being better at creating environmentally-conscious web design. In our projects, we often don’t think about building and designing eco-friendly websites.
Oftentimes, we assume that making something digital makes it more environmentally friendly. We’re using fewer resources, right? Not quite. It can be easy to forget that our websites are running on servers somewhere, which are running on energy, which often use fossil fuels. There are many things that we can do both in the design and development stages to help reduce the amount of energy used to view our sites.
Less is More
Minimalism is definitely trending in the design world, and not just because it looks nice. By following the less is more principle when designing websites, there is less loading required when going to a website, which reduces the amount of energy being used. Browsing a website with media such as images and videos emits approximately 12g of CO2 per minute. That would be the equivalent of driving a car roughly 89 feet. By reducing java widgets and graphics, gifs, ads, and moving elements, and by uploading smaller files for things like images and videos, the site will load faster. You can even look up the speed at which your webpage is loading using the Google Developer tool.
Going hand in hand with the concept of “Less is more”, is making the site User Friendly. Obviously, one of the main goals of an effective website designer is to make the site as user-friendly as possible. The fewer clicks it takes someone to get where they’re going, the easier the website is to navigate intuitively, the better. By making the website as user-friendly as possible, also saves energy. Fewer clicks and less time spent navigating make for a quicker experience, and less energy being used on the server that your website is hosted on.
It’s not uncommon for people to want to print out things that they find online, so it’s very important to take that into consideration. By designing printer-friendly websites, when someone does decide to print, it will use less paper, ink, and in turn, energy and resources. If the site has a colored background, even when printing in black and white, the printer will need to print the background color of your site.
Have you ever gone to print an article or recipe online, and saw a “Print” Button on the page? Oftentimes, when designing for something that will no doubt be printed, we can include these buttons that open a new window with a print-friendly version. These are usually black text on a white background, a more condensed layout with smaller type sizes, and images or anything else that doesn’t need to be printed removed. That way, you can still have a colored background on your website, larger text, and images, animations, etc. while still being print conscious. There is a wonderful Plugin called Print Friendly that can do this!
Other things that you can do
Have you considered choosing a green WebHost? Since your WebHost controls the server, it’s a great idea to choose a WebHost that cares about its environmental impact as well. When searching for a WebHost, you can ask them questions, like how they choose to get their energy needs met. Are their servers powered by renewable energy? Do they offset their energy use?
Another thing that you can do is to educate your website’s audience on the matter. There are websites that show carbon footprint calculations based on what sort of shipping option you choose. There are also websites that have pop-ups talking about your digital carbon footprint, and how using the site may be affecting the planet. This might not necessarily make sense to have on every site that you design, but where it’s applicable it might be worth trying out.
Ecograder is a website where you can enter your site’s URL and it provides you with a report, ranking you in various categories, letting you know what you could do to make your website greener, and whether or not it’s using renewable energy.
WebsiteCarbon is another great site that can give you an estimate of your carbon emissions.
Checking your websites on these platforms may be a great place to start on your journey to becoming a more eco-friendly website designer.