Fast doesn’t always mean furious
Making your website as fast and as light-weight as possible is a key component to making it an eco-friendly site but it doesn’t just stop there. In fact it doesn’t even start there.
Let’s start from the top. 🌥
The ‘cloud’ is served by thousands of data centres all over the world. Enormous warehouses, jammed full of computers serving us our every need. Delivering us the latest series of Stranger Things (if that’s your vibe), keeping track of our Amazon deliveries, showing you the photos your friend took on their latest holiday. It keeps global infrastructure working, finance, transport, healthcare, communication and all the other stuff we simply rely on.
The key problem with these data centres is that, of course, you can’t just turn it off when no one’s using it. They need to stay powered on and highly accessible 24/7. The energy consumption from running thousands of computers alone is massive (and that’s just in one warehouse), however as I’m sure you’re aware, if you leave something electrical turned on and working for a long time it starts to get hot, really hot. So these servers also need constant air conditioning and cooling to keep them operational.
The ‘internet’ is already on par with the aviation industry in terms of its carbon footprint. Research suggests that within the next few years the IT industry could be using 20% of all electricity produced and emit up to 5.5% of the world’s carbon emissions.
The big players (ie Google & Amazon) are aiming to run all of their centres on 100% renewable energy but of course this takes time. Some providers claim to be green by way of purchasing carbon credits and offsetting their usage by planting trees but there are plenty of providers that are already running completely on power from the sun, wind, and/or sea.
The design of a website can have an effect on its eco credentials. The longer a user spends trying to find something on a site means more work for both the hosting server and their device so spending time considering your users’ journeys and making them as efficient as possible helps reduce unnecessary workload.
‘Dark mode’ helps reduce the amount of work a device has to do by emitting less light and therefore using less energy. Make sure your design holds up in dark mode and consider making your site automatically detect a user’s operating system settings and switch between light and dark mode accordingly.
It may sound obvious but unnecessarily large images or videos, uncompressed styles and scripts, third party external plugin resources (I’m looking at you WordPress 👀) and unnecessary font files can all increase the resources required to deliver a website to a user which can cause a page to take longer to load.
Of course some style and script resources are required to make the website functional but only loading them onto the page when required can help speed up your load times considerably.
Some images need to be large to fill a banner or display as a background but this doesn’t mean they need to be print resolution hi-definition images. Choosing the right image format, display size and compression can make your images a fraction of the filesize of the original with virtually no degradation in quality. Adding lazy loading into the mix and you have perfectly sized images that are only loaded onto the page when the user needs to see it.
If your site is attracting 10,000+ visits a day then it all adds up.