The Internet uses energy, an awful lot of energy. Everything about it needs power, from the massive data centres that hold all of the information, through the cables that connect you to it, to your own device. Without electricity the whole Internet ceases to function or even be a thing. So as the world becomes more aware of the energy it is using, and its part in Global Warming, we are looking at ways to reduce the amount of energy that the Internet needs to operate.
There are two ways the Internet and websites use, and can save, energy;
- Carbon Neutral Hosting
How is the electricity that runs the servers that power the Internet generated? There has been a significant increase in the number of ‘green hosting companies’ offering their services powered purely by renewable energy.
- Carbon Conscious Websites
How much energy does it use to store your website, and how much energy does it use every time someone loads the site?
This blog will cover the second one of these, as this is something we (as a web design business) can have an impact on every day, with everything we build. So let’s start with breaking down how the energy is used, and then look at how we can make a site more Carbon Conscious.
How is the energy used?
- Websites are stored on servers, the bigger the site is, the more space it users on a server, so the more power it needs to store it
- Every time someone accesses your site, bits of it have to be downloaded from the server to your PC, so the more data that needs to be downloaded, the more power it needs to do that
- Every time someone goes to a different page on your site, that also needs to be downloaded (unless they have already been on that page of course)
How can we save energy with a more Carbon Conscious website?
- If your site is leaner, then it needs less storage space, so uses less power to store, by that I mean;
- Have you optimised all of your images and videos to make them smaller (so use less space on the server)?
- Have you thought about how many images you are using, can you achieve the same effect with 1 where you are currently using 3?
- Have you checked your site against Core Web Vitals to see how quickly it loads (the quicker it loads, the less energy it is using)?
- Have you thought about the pages you are creating, can you combine them to reduce page count?
- Can you achieve some of the creativity on the site by artistic use of copy instead of images (fonts use very little space)?
- If you put time into the UX/UI (user experience and user interface) you can simplify the users journey through the site
- The easier it is for users to find what they are looking for, the less pages they have to load looking for it, so the less data is transferred in them getting there
The steps to make a site Carbon Conscious are not that complicated, but it does involve more effort in the initial design and user experience steps, but this will give a better experience for the user, and a site that loads quickly.
It is not just spin
Of course at first glance this can be written off as being either Green-Washing or marketing spin, but actually given how much energy the Internet requires, making pages less energy hungry can make a difference. If you tie that with users wanting faster experiences it all makes sense – a page that takes too long to load is off-putting both to potential customers as well as to Google as it searches and indexes your site.
We can all make a difference
Unless you have a big website with lots of visitors the saving can appear to be negligible, but if we all did it, the difference would be huge. So I am all in favour of this, and think that it is only going to become more important as time goes on.