As a creative agency, it’s so natural for us to want to do great design work and take pride in the way that a website looks. However, we’re also super passionate about sustainable web design and ensuring websites are built in a way that’s good for the environment.
The problem is, fancy websites with lots of bells and whistles on it are often REALLY bad for the environment. So, how do you create nice-looking websites while making sure that your website is low-carbon.
We decided to explore some of the internal debates we’ve been having while we design our new website, and those for clients, and the decisions we’ve come to.
Who actually watches videos?
We’ve been talking about the power of video for years; they captivate the viewer and are able to deliver such a powerful message in just a few seconds.
Because of all the hype about video, people have stated putting video on their websites all over the place, just for the sake of it. But, how many people are actually watching your videos? You will see plenty of stats that show that videos are powerful, but lo and behold, these are often created by video marketing firms!
You can check your own website stats to be sure.
One of the biggest offenders in carbon emissions for websites is the use of video, so this is a great place to start. First of all, do you even need the video? And if so, please do NOT let them autoplay. This is also just hugely bad for UX – it is so intrusive in someone’s browsing experience.
If you do use video, can you host off your website? E.g. on YouTube? Then, put an image placeholder where the image is and a play button to send it to YouTube? That’s what we’ve been doing lately for clients and it’s worked really well, as most users do not miss being able to watch the video when embedded.
Do you need an image for each section?
Another bad habit by designers is to fill a website design with lots of images because it looks “pretty”. But are these images actually helpful to the user experience? If you’re using stock images, then the answer is most likely a big, fat NO!
Images can be extremely heavy and seriously affect the performance of a website if they’re not uploaded in the correct size and format, so really think about the use of images where you can.
If possible, use lightweight illustrations in place of images. And if you don’t have a relevant image, please don’t use a stock image.
Most companies have a pre-determined set of brand guidelines that are likely to include custom fonts, but the loading of these fonts use up resources.
The most efficient way to deal with this issue is to use system fonts, as these will already be installed on your server and will not require additional resources. However, designers will absolutely cringe at this suggestion and there are sure to be fights between your design and dev teams if this is suggested. The system fonts are not exactly too stylish.
So, the odds are that you’re going to need to upload custom fonts. If you do, please make sure that you remove all the unnecessary font weights that you don’t need and upload them in WOFF2 format.
The marketing team are going to push you to create tons of landing pages that will help them with their SEO efforts. No doubt, having landing pages that have specific keywords and tailored content will be able to convert better, but creating hundreds of these just so that you can try to rank for these keywords may not also do well for your website performance.
Anything that affects the performance of your website, is also going to affect the carbon emissions from your website.
You should be auditing your content on your website regularly to ensure that you have necessary content throughout your website.
You can still create beautiful websites that are good for the environment; just be mindful of what the user actually requires, rather than trying to make the site look pretty for the sake of it.
It will be painful for design teams at first, but they learn to adapt to what’s great for sustainable web design and the planet will thank us for it!