Sustainable Web Design

The internet is a polluter on the same scale as the aviation industry. It takes a staggering amount of electricity to power the 3m or so US data centers, and since they are mostly coal-powered this comes with a hefty cost in carbon dioxide waste. And as the average web page keeps getting bigger, and people spend longer online, our industry's carbon footprint continues to grow.

I’ve joined a growing number of designers that are concerned about this trend and its potential impact on the climate, so for the last year I’ve been writing about what designers can do to lessen our environmental impact. The best summary of my research can be found in my article Sustainable Web Design on A List Apart  (published October 2013).

The crux of the article is that re-engineering a site to reduce energy demand could be tough medicine for companies to swallow - after all, unless they are actively pursuing a low-carbon strategy, they are not under any legal obligation to do so (yet).

Fortunately, it turns out that sustainability is an easy sell: all the steps required to reduce the footprint of a site also align perfectly with a general optimization strategy for ROI. Faster sites convert users better, are more profitable, and are greener almost as a side benefit.

There are whole orchards of low-hanging fruit when it comes to techniques for optimizing websites: we can make great gains just be following best practices (and earning the aforementioned boosts to performance and conversion as a result).

Once those energy-saving adjustments have been made, then businesses can decide what to do with the remainder of their carbon footprint - offset it by buying some form of carbon credit, or reduce it further by moving their web hosting to a green energy supplier.

If you’d like to know more about any of these topics, or would like to learn how Mad*Pow can help your business improve site performance, gain customers, lower energy costs and reduce your carbon footprint, then please get in touch.

Contributed by
James Christie
Job Title
Principal, Experience Design