Sustainable Web Design and Development

by | Dec 4, 2020 | Websites

I’ve been working towards more sustainable web design and development and making my business greener, AND YOU CAN TOO!

It’s no secret that the world needs to move towards more sustainable businesses and lifestyles to protect our environment. If you’ve been following me for a while you’ll know that this is a huge priority for me and something I’m aware of whenever I’m making decisions about how I live and work. For a long time, I thought my online business had a small impact on the planet but I was wrong…and you might be guilty of thinking your online life is similarly sustainable in terms of environmental impact.

Often we think about plastic waste and pollution as obvious examples of unsustainable practices but web design and development is rarely considered as one of the damaging forces threatening the planet. While the shift from physical products to paperless offices and online services is a step in the right direction, our increasingly energy-hungry virtual lives are also having an impact on the environment.

A Plan for a Greener Online Business

Over the last year, I have been taking an active interest in just how sustainable and low impact my online business is and making a plan. A plan to lower the impact of my day-to-day business activities and a plan to lower the impact of the websites I create for clients.

Obvious things like reducing energy usage, greener energy suppliers, reducing waste, continuing to be a paperless office and offsetting our caron emissions have been the first step. Early this year I contacted all the businesses that still sent me paper invoices and information to ask them to contact me via email only. We already use green energy when connected to the grid and often work off-grid via a small solar system. The next step was to offset our carbon footprint for myself and Alba (our fantastic junior designer), we do this through Ecologi every month.

A Plan for More Sustainable Web Design and Development

Aside from the greener day-to-day activities, there are many things that we can focus on for more sustainable web design and development. Many of these are best practice for great design but if we consider them in the context of sustainability we can ensure they receive even more of our attention.

Embracing Mobile-first Design

Power-hungry desktops have a much greater impact on the environment than mobile devices. Over the last few years, mobile browsing has seen a massive increase, this is great for reducing energy consumption as mobile devices are much more efficient. A genuine mobile-first web design & development strategy also ensures a focus on fast page loads, meaning smaller website file sizes, fewer server requests and optimised images demanding less server and user resources to render each page.

sustainable web design mobile first design

Maximising On-site SEO

Optimising a website properly for SEO can help to reduce carbon emissions in several ways. Firstly, if your site is easily indexed by search engines, they will use less power to index your site. Secondly, a website well optimised for search terms allows users will find what they are looking for without trawling through various pages, making fewer requests from the server and using less power.

Streamlined UX (User Experience)

If your site is focused on providing the most relevant information to users to help them make decisions about engaging with your business it’s more environmentally friendly. They can take action on your site efficiently, getting what they want and allowing your business to thrive without unnecessary usage.

Developing Efficient Code

For me this is a balance, my clients want something they can understand and often want to make updates themselves. This means some advanced backend user functions are essential but it doesn’t mean the website needs to be overloaded with code that isn’t necessary. If your WordPress website has more than a few additional plugins then you’ve probably chosen the wrong ones! We always strive to keep our custom code clean and minimal while reducing the number of plugins we’re using that make additional requests to the server when a page is loaded.

Green Hosting

How green is your hosting? If you’re using a website builder like SquareSpace or Wix you won’t have control over your hosting environment (sadly neither of these companies use green hosting yet), but with WordPress you get to decide where your files are hosted, woohoo! Greener hosts use renewable energy to run their offices and servers and the best of them plant trees when you purchase domains and hosting packages.

There’s a lot of choice when it comes to green hosting for your WordPress website, most of the green hosting options are listed here.

Offsetting Carbon Emissions for Every Website Project

Finally, we wanted to offset the carbon emissions of each website project we complete. Each site we’ve built during 2020 has enabled us to plant around 50 trees with sustainability projects around the world. What’s even better than this is our passion for sustainability is infectious! Many of our clients now offset their own carbon footprint and we’re spreading the word about how businesses can give back and support environmental projects too.

sustsainable web design

There remains a lot that can be done to make our businesses and our websites greener and we’re committed to prioritising and promoting eco-friendly, sustainable web design. Please take the time to look at the amazing work Ecologi are doing to protect our beautiful planet and consider making your business (web design or otherwise) more sustainable!

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