Eco-friendly design might seem like a passing trend.
However, delve a bit deeper, and you’ll find that conscientious designers have been quietly incorporating sustainable practices for years. This focus on efficiency helps everyone: your users, clients, the planet, and your business.
The numbers do speak for themselves. According to Internet World Stats, more than 1.8 billion websites are running online, drawing in over 4 billion daily visitors. The internet causes emissions of around 2,330,041 tons of CO2 and consumes 2,339,400 MWh of electricity daily. Delving deeper into specific use cases, a single internet search consumes about 0.3 Wh of energy and contributes to the release of 0.2g of CO2 in the environment. Why does it matter? The average web page today is nearly four times the size it was in 2010 and continues to rise as technologies like video and AR emerge.
If the internet were a country, it would now be the seventh largest CO2 emissions polluter in the world, making up 4% of all greenhouse gases. In this article, we’ll explore the importance of eco-friendly web and app development and how you can make a meaningful contribution.
Why is eco-friendly development important?
More website visitors
More people are accessing the Internet, leading to greater energy consumption through their devices. It’s little surprise to learn that the number of Internet users globally is on an upward trajectory, placing greater demand on server resources. And the more content we consume on the internet, the more servers we need, thus putting further strain on the environment.
With websites becoming increasingly data-heavy, developers must work hard to limit page sizes and develop innovative technologies to reduce demand. Right now, growth demands more server power, subsequently increasing energy use and carbon emissions.
More time spent online
Users are spending more time online than ever before. This trend only intensifies the already increasing energy consumption and server usage. As developers, we must work hard to make our online experiences as accessible and sustainable as possible. The good news is that many tools are available to help you do that.
How to develop in a sustainable way
Switch to green web hosting
The first line of defence is choosing a web host committed to using renewable energy or purchasing renewable energy credits. The Green Foundation can help you determine whether your website is already running on a green server. If not, it might be worth making the change: from a cost perspective, sustainable web hosting is comparable to a standard web hosting platform. Many providers are making the switch automatically.
Optimise data processing
Performance optimisation doesn’t just improve user experience; it also reduces the carbon footprint of your website or app. Strategies include implementing various caching layers, using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) like CloudFlare, compressing data using Gzip., minifying and combining code, and using CSS sprites. Experienced developers can do this independently – if you’re looking to make immediate changes, plugins can be helpful.
Reduce image usage
According to HTTP Archive, images make up almost half of the data transferred by websites. Therefore, optimising images can drastically cut down on energy consumption. Some best practices include compressing images, resizing them according to the screen size, and employing lazy loading techniques. And consider other forms of visual media using CSS and styling – not only is it more sustainable, but it can give your website an aesthetic edge.
Reduce video and audio use
Multimedia content can be a data hog. Use formats like WebM for video and consider embedding content from third-party platforms with strong green credentials. According to Click Clean’s report, YouTube has an ‘A’ grade for eco-friendliness, so you can embed content from there, though consider putting it behind a click-through to reduce server load.
Switch to a minimalist design
A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach or mobile-first design can inherently encourage more efficient, less resource-intensive solutions. Similarly, intuitive navigation allows users to find what they need quickly, reducing the time and energy consumed on your site or app. You could even consider adding features like time management settings to help users limit their usage – Instagram is amongst the brands already offering this feature.
Optimise your website
High-quality metadata can help the right users find your product, reducing unnecessary energy consumption from irrelevant searches. Ensure your website’s internal linking structure and search functionality are top-notch, too, to reduce the reliance on third parties.
You should consider developing a more eco-friendly website or app for many reasons. One of the most important is that it’s good for the planet. However, it can also offer a competitive edge and help you appeal to socially conscious consumers, particularly Millennials and Gen Z. Most importantly, many of the tips above will make your projects more sustainable and improve their overall performance and user experience. Given the overlapping benefits, it’s clear that eco-friendly design isn’t just a trend—it’s a responsible approach that’s here to stay.
If you are keen on merging technology and sustainability, contact the web design and app development experts at Zudu. We have enjoyed working in huge climate change areas such as COP26 in 2021. Our team have designed and built a range of Tech For Good projects over the years and always welcomes the opportunity to support causes that make a difference. Click here to find out more.