Sustainable web design

Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay
Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Ian Chew is the founder of Greenie Web. In this article, he discusses sustainable web design.

Greenie Web started in 2009, and ever since, we have been working very hard to be the voice of sustainable digitization and digital decarbonization in the Asia Pacific.

Digital carbon footprint or digital carbon emission (DCE, or DCF) is the carbon dioxide (CO2) we put into the atmosphere each time we use an internet base or digital-based product or service.

Every time you use a device, the devices, the data servers, and other processes consume energy. If you look at Bitcoin mining, the algorithms are complex.

Singapore banned building new data centers from 2019 until the end of 2022 because of the large energy consumption. In the case of Singapore, 97% of the power is supplied by Senoko, which uses natural gas, burning fossil fuels. So, the data centers have a huge carbon cost associated with them. Technology, though, appears to be green, but in reality, that is not the case.

As per the Mozilla Foundation, communications tech will emit more carbon by 2025 than any country except China, India, and the US.

To avoid this, there are two things that we can do, sustainable digitization and digital decarbonization.

In sustainable digitization, you build new software and processes that are green in nature. In digital decarbonization, we improve the infrastructure and make it more current.

As a designer, there are three design choices that you can make to reduce the carbon footprint –

  • Monitor animation speed. Animation speed is important when we look at user experience and sustainability. From a user perspective, it cannot be so fast that the animation is not noticed, and it also wastes data; neither can it be so slow that there appears to be a lag. Having optimized animation speed can allow you to give people that good user experience and, at the same time, save carbon.
  • Have a weight budget for your webpage. Over half the users will leave a web page if it does not load in 3 seconds. A lighter webpage loads faster. A webpage consumes data when it loads. This means it consumes energy. So, you can decide on a size budget for your site and have all pages within that budget. The landing page can be fancier with a slightly higher budget, while the other pages can be less fancy.
  • Optimize the user journey. If the user experience is poor, the bounce rates will be very high. Developers and website owners do not want that. For this, the website should not be a maze. The user journey should be optimal. If you optimize the user journey, you’re optimizing pages and data usage, thus reducing carbon emissions.

Other ways to reduce digital carbon footprint

  • Check subscriptions – Emails also have carbon emissions. So, get rid of unwanted subscriptions so that unwanted emails are reduced.
  • Send links, not attachments – Many people in the corporate world like to send large chunky attachments to many people. A few relevant people open these attachments. But these attachments have a carbon cost attached to them. So, you can reduce the number of people who get the emails, and also, instead of sending attachments, you can send links with relevant access.
  • Optimize video consumption patterns. This is an era where people are moving on to streaming. One of the more carbon-efficient practices is using a streaming platform rather than YouTube for every single video.

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