How is your website impacting the planet?
People often think of the digital word of the internet as being up in the cloud(s). Although data may seem to be somewhat invisible, it’s not. Data is dirty and the electricity required to transfer it currently produces around 3.8% of global carbon emissions. If the Internet was a country, it would be the 7th largest polluter in the world. 231 million trees would need to be planted to deal with the pollution caused as a result of the data US citizens consumed in 2019.
What can we do to combat our energy consumption on the web?
You’d be surprised to find that a lot of the same practices used for making your site more accessible, user friendly, and faster loading can be used to not only improve SEO but help make your site greener and more eco-friendly!
Project management 💼
Before you start your next web project, it is important to consider where your site will “live”. Choosing a provider that uses renewable energy to power their servers and data centers is one of the easiest ways to reduce your site’s carbon footprint. GreenGeeks, LLC, for instance, matches 3 times the amount of energy they consume from the grid in the form of renewable energy credits. This alone could make your website 300% more green!
Check out this list of green energy hosting companies if you wish to learn more.
Create a performance budget
A performance budget is a list of goals created at the beginning of a project and is used to apply restrictions to metrics that can affect your sites performance. Like any budget, performance budgets are essential for operating at peak efficiency. Having a budget in place brings the web performance conversation to the front of the line and can be approached early on through all aspects of the design and build process. These set goals will help you make decisions while designing, choosing technology, and can point you towards better solutions throughout the process.
How to Budget:
- Study the competition. See how fast the largest competitor’s site loads and try to beat that.
- Or aim for load times for Time-to-Interactive under 5s on 3G/4G and Under 170 KB of critical-path resources (compressed/minified)
Performance should be at the forefront of everyone’s mind as they consider content for their next web project.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Believe it or not, the goal of SEO is naturally aligned with reducing energy consumption. Optimizing your site helps the user find your information more quickly and results in them spending less time searching for the information. The less time a user spends searching Google, the smaller their carbon footprint!
Like SEO, the copy (or page text) on your website affects the efficiency of the user’s experience. Your website’s information should be presented in a clear, concise, and logical format. This allows users to efficiently view your content and not waste their time trudging through a block of text that doesn’t offer any value to their experience or provide an answer to their initial query.
Use less font variations
Web font files can be a huge contributor to carbon emissions on the web. A single font file could weigh as much as 275kb! You can add another 250kb if you want it in bold. System fonts such as Times New Roman and Arial might not be as pretty, but they are already on the user’s device and don’t need any additional loading from the server.
“Good design is as little design as possible.”
— Dieter Rams
Use Dark mode when you can
Allowing users to switch to a dark mode can help lower the light emitted by a user’s screen. Building a palette that utilizes a darker color scheme will use less energy on OLED screens.
Use less Raster images
Images are some of the largest files used on websites. Using a lot of images slows your site down and increases the amount of energy needed to run your it. It’s important to think about the images you will be using on your site. Does the image need to be large to convey the same information? Could we achieve the same effect with a vector graphic like an SVG or CSS?
When preparing raster image files for development, you should always squoosh your raster images down with tools like TinyPNG or ShortPixel that can compress files without effecting quality. This could help bring the size of your images down significantly. The final step in curating small, quality raster images for your website is to save them as a WebP instead of JPEG or PNG. WebP lossless images are around 26% smaller in size than PNGs!
Build vector graphics with SVG and CSS
Load images at the right size
Don’t rely on CSS to resize your images to avoid loading images that are larger than what they will be displayed at. Take advantage of the picture element.
<picture> <source srcset="/images/image.webp" media="(prefers-color-scheme: dark)"/> <img class="image" src="/images/image.webp" alt="image alt" loading="lazy" decoding="async" /> </picture>
You can even use AVIF images with the picture element for browsers that can support it.
<picture> <source srcset="/images/image.avif" type="img.avif" /> <source srcset="/images/image.webp" media="(prefers-color-scheme: dark)"/> <img class="image" src="/images/image.webp" alt="image alt" loading="lazy" decoding="async" /> </picture>
Adding loading=”lazy” and decoding=”async” will also help.
Minify your assets.
Minifying your CSS and JS reduces the file size by removing line breaks, spaces, comments, and other optimizations. Combining CSS into one file will reduce the amount of HTTP requests.
Build a Static Site
Dynamic websites are usually created with a CMS (content management system) such as Wordpress or webflow. A CMS will make queries to the website’s database to dynamically generate pages. This causes a lot of work for the web server and therefore uses more energy. Static sites, on the other hand, will be generated as individual HTML files for each page with the help of a static site generator. There are many static site generators to choose from (I personally like Jekyll and Eleventy). These tools can help reduce your file sizes tremendously.
In Summary ⚖️
There are many ways to decrease the size of your web projects and to make them more eco-friendly. It is our job as builders of the web to make powerful, fast, inclusive technologies and take into consideration the impact these technologies have on our environment.
You can check your site’s carbon footprint here.
Thanks for listening 👋🏻