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How to reduce the carbon footprint of your website

How many websites have you looked at today? Our online habits of browsing, emailing, and downloading data, all have an impact on the environment. The world of paper and print has been working towards sustainability for many years. However, education regarding harmful carbon emissions within the digital sector is often overlooked.

The devices we use to access the internet have become increasingly powerful. With ultrafast broadband connections allowing web pages to load within milliseconds, it’s easy to think that zero energy is needed to deliver them.

But, according to some estimates, over 3.5% of global greenhouse emissions are caused by using the internet (that’s more than the aviation industry). And it’s rising.

Reducing carbon emissions without compromising website design

Website designers, developers and content creators, can produce sites that use energy resources wisely, without compromise.

Website planning

Creating a website with a minimal carbon footprint starts with designing an efficient structure. The aim is to reduce the number of clicks a visitor makes to navigate to a particular page. This is the same as the usual key business objectives. So it’s a win all round.

Page length also makes a difference. Avoiding lengthy pages reduces the energy needed to download the page, with the bonus of creating a more positive visitor experience – as information is easier to find without endless scrolling.

Designability

Design plays an integral part in website usability. Confusing layouts, clicking on wrong links by mistake, or spending too much time trying to find information, doesn’t make a good user experience. Designing a site with straightforward navigation, signposting and clear calls-to-action, will help guide the visitor and minimise unnecessary data download.

Content creation

Website content is the main contributor to the data weight of a web page and its size has a significant impact on the energy needed to download a page. But there are plenty of ways to create impact with copy, images and video, without wasting energy.

Good copy can be concise and informative. Ask yourself, does it create value, or is it fluff? Content with little value to the visitor can lead to wasted page views.

Images

Images add visual impact to a website and help to engage the visitor. But size and quantity can be an issue. A website carousel can display a multi-image presentation, but visitors are unlikely to wait for more than a few seconds before moving on. Do you need six images on a carousel when three will do the job?

Video

Like images, videos can make compelling content. But they need to be carefully planned and optimised. Keeping them short and sweet will capture the visitor’s attention, providing a high-value resource that uses less energy to download.

Avoid the video autoplay function

Choice is important too. Give the visitor the option to play a video, so it only downloads once they hit the ‘play’ button.

Under construction

What goes on behind the scenes needs to consider energy consumption too. Website development involves coding the web pages and configuring the technology used to deliver them.

Website plugins

Plugins offer additional functionality to websites, and they are easy to install on content management systems like WordPress, but they do have overheads. Only use the plugins that are really necessary.

Javascript

Javascript is the technology that adds interactivity to the web – anything that moves, refreshes or changes on your screen without requiring you to reload a page. All Javascript actions are resource hungry so it’s worth asking if the interactivity it provides is necessary.

Web hosting

Many of the data centres that store and deliver websites run on sustainable energy. Look for details on your current web host, and consider switching to a greener supplier.

Social media

When adding links to posts, make them a one-click stop away. Direct visitors to the exact page you want them to end up on, rather than your main home page. This avoids extra clicks and page downloads. Tools such as LinkTree can provide a list of relevant links for Instagram within your bio.

Search engine optimisation (SEO)

Investing in SEO can help reduce your website’s carbon footprint by targeting quality visitors. It’s about getting them to the most relevant page they are looking for, and doing it quickly.

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