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In an age where 60% of consumers favour sustainability, companies attempting to stay above the competitive tide must continually consider how their actions impact the planet. This is a trend that has long seen countless business heads reconsidering things like product sourcing and energy consumption within the office, but a growing awareness of the 3.7% of greenhouse gas emissions caused by online activity means that pressure is also increasing to make positive changes with regards to traditional web design.
Centred around the use of designs that significantly reduce the energy outputs required online, eco-friendly website design offers a fantastic and surprisingly simple way for companies to avoid this sustainability minefield, as well as enjoying a range of cost-based and UX benefits.
Build a Sustainable Website
That said, faltering or poorly-implemented sustainable online efforts can end up doing more harm than good, meaning that companies need to make sure to use the top sustainable web design practices, like those we’ll discuss below.
# 1 – Always Green Energy
‘The Sustainable Web Manifesto’ outlines a clear path of action for effective sustainable web implementations, and the need to use clean, renewable energy is the first priority highlighted here. That’s hardly surprising considering that companies using renewable hosting services can significantly reduce the global impact of things like data storage facilities, and all of the computer systems/cooling requirements that they bring as standard.
Unfortunately, finding the right green hosting provider can be difficult, especially considering that costs here can be higher across far fewer high-quality options in general. That said, ample research should still lead companies to high-quality green hosts like Green Geeks, which not only provide green energy but also ensure the support and high-performance on which retained company reputations ultimately rest.
# 2 – High-resolution Reductions
High-resolution loading of media like images and video both significantly slows page load times and requires a whole lot more energy output in the first place. As such, reducing those high-resolution additions where possible can make a huge difference.
Of course, with media of this kind going a long way towards SEO standing and usability, removing these additions altogether can result in a lost website appeal that negates the benefits possible with a more sustainable focus in the first place. That said, there are still steps that can help to reduce the damage of those high-resolution extras, and they include –
- Reducing image file sizes
- Embedding website videos
- Limiting video usage
- Decluttering website media
- Turning off autoplay
In each instance, you should find that you’re able to both streamline your website and reduce the load times that are currently the largest energy drain across your online presence.
# 3 – Simple Site Navigation
As well as increasing the amount of energy necessary to load your page in the first place, a complex website design complete with maze-like pages and an impossible navigation system means that users will take a lot longer to find whatever they’re looking for.
This is worrying when you consider that there are currently 3.5 billion existing web users, each of whom is already thought to produce as much as 414kg (912lbs) of carbon dioxide through online activity every year. Complex website navigation can significantly worsen that problem and is something that should always be avoided. Crisp, concise page layouts can especially ensure the fast identification of relevant information in the right sections. Furthermore, navigation bars themselves can benefit from a range of sustainability techniques including –
- Concise labelling
- Responsive designs
- Hierarchical listings
- Search capabilities
- And more
Admittedly, the sustainability benefits that can be felt here may well end up being less notable than the other methods mentioned, but when used as part of a wider sustainability scheme, you can certainly see UX and environmental benefits from these efforts.
# 4 – Lazy Loading Below the Fold
‘The fold’ of any website refers to the stuff that users don’t see until they start scrolling. As well as significantly slowing all-important load times (which should ideally never exceed 2-5 seconds), a website that loads all of this media as soon as someone enters a web page is going to waste energy on users who might not stick around for long enough to see it. Hence why sustainable design also requires the use of lazy loading below that fold.
Again, there are several different ways to do this, the simplest of which revolves around a basic HTML input. Other options for implementation also include using the intersection observer API or scripts like Yal.js. Admittedly, some technical design know-how is crucial for ensuring results here, but a little research is all it takes to ensure sustainable slow loading moving forward.
# 5 – Consider Caching
By reducing the transfer of data when a website is in use, caching can also prove beneficial from a sustainability standpoint by storing shared page scripts like CSS on a user’s device for faster website access.
There are two primary caching techniques worth considering in this sense, and they are –
- Full-page caching: A standard server caching method where the entire cached version of a page is delivered as a single HTML to a visitor’s browser.
- Object caching: A fragmentary form of caching in which only part of a web page is saved, most effective when persistent ‘objects’ (e.g. images, designs, etc.) exist in various locations.
Plugins like Autoptimize or Cache Enabler offer the simplest way to implement either of these methods. Regularly updated plugins are especially crucial to avoid the potentially stale data and bottlenecks that can be a common disadvantage of caching in general.
A Final Word
Whether you get help with sustainable website design or intend to tackle even the more technical elements of this task yourself, the clock is ticking to get each of these best practices right. That way, you can ensure that you’re ahead of the environmental curve for improved reputational standing and a generally more ethical company outlook. Not to mention that, in most cases, each of these steps can make a huge difference to the user experiences that can lead you to online conversions in the long run.