Sustainable Web Design: Does It Really Help the Environment?

When considering an organization’s carbon footprint, energy efficiency tops the list. But the power to run a business requires more than keeping the lights on in a building. The internet is a vital service required for basic business functionality. And it requires energy to run.

While energy-efficient devices can make an impact, so can the design of your website. A website that loads faster and performs better will take less energy on both the consumer side and the data center side. 

Luckily, simple solutions can help with sustainable web design.

Environmental Effects of Technology

As a network of more networks and computers, the internet consumes a great deal of power. The carbon footprint of our gadgets, the internet, and the systems supporting them accounted for about 3.7% of global greenhouse emissions in 2020, according to estimates from Lancaster University, UK. Those numbers were calculated before COVID-19 supercharged our digital needs. These emissions could double by 2025.

For example, the US Department of Energy identified data centers as one of the most energy-intensive building types, consuming 10 to 50 times the energy per floor space of a typical commercial office building. Collectively, these spaces account for approximately 2% of the total US electricity use. As the use of information technology grows, data center and server energy use are expected to grow too. 

How to Implement Sustainable Web Design

In many cases, sustainable website design requires the simplification of certain functions. Reducing the power load of a website will correspondingly reduce the power necessary to serve the internet’s energy needs. But simple doesn’t always mean easy. It requires expert knowledge of the best solutions for design elements that affect the power load of a website. 

In some ways, sustainable web design takes a minimalist approach to website development. However, you still need a functional website that will do what you need it to do.

These 3 strategies can help with implementing sustainable web design:

1. A Clear Design with an Optimized User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX)

The first step to sustainable web design starts with developing a better experience for the end user. Streamlining the design and eliminating unnecessary elements can result in a powerful and intuitive website. 

You want to minimize unnecessary content and reduce load time while making it easier for users to find what they want. This approach will improve UX, while also reducing the power load of the website—a win-win situation.

Interestingly, making a website more user-friendly often results in making it easier for search engines to find and correctly index your content. That’s another bonus to sustainable web design.

2. Faster Load Times

When it comes to loading times, faster is better. Page weight (the number and size of resources required to load a website) has expanded as technological innovations have matured. But even in our world of improved bandwidth, page weight is an important factor that can affect website performance. 

Sustainable design lowers page weight to reduce the amount of power required to load. It also benefits the user by providing faster access to the information they’re seeking on your website. 

Load times and site clarity also matter for search engines. Again, you get multiple benefits from thinking about your website from a sustainability standpoint.

3. Mobile Optimization

Mobile devices changed the game of website development. That effect has only grown as more people use smartphones and tablets to access the Internet. Additionally, mobile devices have created an exponential increase in the use of mobile apps

Creating mobile-enabled websites naturally requires a lighter design. So, typically mobile-enabled websites are already lighter than traditional desktop versions.

Again, search engines consider mobile-enabled sites as a positive element in their rankings. So that’s another benefit.

How to Implement Sustainable Web Design

Developing sustainable websites requires a combination of design and technical expertise. You want to work with someone who understands how website elements work together to meet both the company’s needs and the user’s experience. 

Experts in sustainability principles will consider several factors in the design of your website.

How to Implement Sustainable Web Design
  1. Testing: Website testing should include UX and performance testing, which can give you a lot of data about how your site works and how much power it takes to run. This service is invaluable in sustainable web design.
  2. Coding: Not all code needs to be used for every page of your website. Your designers can use minification tools to reduce unused code, thereby reducing your load times. 
  3. Hosting: When considering your website hosting services provider, including companies that work towards sustainability in their own operations. Ask questions about how they manage their energy usage.
  4. Image optimization: One of the simplest ways to reduce load times on your website is to reduce image size. Experienced designers understand how to optimize images and choose the right formats that will serve both your design and your load time.
  5. Color palettes: Color matters, because brighter colors generally require more energy to display. In contrast, black uses the least energy. Your designers should balance the needs of your design and your company, as well as the site’s UX.
  6. Fonts: Custom fonts can affect website performance. Sustainable web design uses these special fonts for specific purposes while relying on web-safe fonts that are stored in a user’s browser when possible.
  7. CSS: Cascading style sheets (CSS) reduce necessary code by adding styles (e.g., fonts, colors, spacing) to websites from one source. Developers also can use CSS sprites to speed up graphic loading.
  8. Fewer pages: Each website page requires reloading from the server, and more energy to boot. Consolidating content can help your design maintain content organization while reducing the number of page loads.

Sustainable web design requires a careful balance between performance and functionality. An experienced web designer is an essential source of the latest information on making your site as energy-efficient as possible. 

Contact the experts at InApp to learn more about how sustainable design can help your company’s carbon footprint.