What do you picture when you are asked what the internet is? Perhaps it is an abstract ‘cloud’ of information, or maybe a dark warehouse with rows of computer servers innocently blinking away. But our internet usage is not as abstract and separate from our physical world of trees and oceans as we may like to think.
With everything we could possibly need at our fingertips, it is easy to overlook the environmental cost of our digital interactions. But the effect of our online habits is becoming a concern, as internet use increases and the carbon footprint of the web rises with it. In fact, if the internet was a country, it would be the seventh-largest polluter.
But why is this? Well, the information you find on the web is hosted in data centres. These data centres, made up of thousands of computers, consume electricity as they process the data and often require extensive air conditioning systems to prevent them from overheating. Every time you request a webpage, receive an email, or download a file, more electricity is used to transfer this data from the server to your device.
It is vital that we bring our awareness to the impact the web is having on the environment. The good news is, some simple steps that can be taken to make your website more eco-friendly. Read on to find out what these are.
1. A fast law firm website is a green website
At Conscious, the main way we make your website faster, and what you can try yourself, is reducing the size of the assets such as images, across the site. This means less data needs to be transferred from the server to the device, the website loads more quickly, and the carbon emissions per page load decreases.
Some ways to reduce the page size on your website are:
- Cropping and compressing images. Reducing the file size of images on your site can be a quick win for speeding up your site. Crop images to the minimum necessary dimensions and compress them before you upload them to your site, using a tool such as TinyPNG.
- Use videos sparingly. Video use has become trendy in recent years, but video files are typically very large. A single video can add to the size of your website quite dramatically. It is best to reserve videos for conveying important information, rather than purely for design purposes.
- Use lightweight icons and vector illustrations in place of photographs where possible.
- Use fonts sparingly. Every font file adds to the weight of your page. Once you start using multiple font families on your site, the weight of these files can quickly add up. Where possible, use fonts to help convey information as clearly as possible, but don’t overdo it.
- Refrain from ‘lazy loading’ by only loading assets as they are required, rather than loading them all when the page loads. An example of this is only loading an image near the bottom of a page once the user scrolls to that point.
2. Come over to the dark side
Many modern devices use OLED technology. In simple terms, this means that if your device needs to display the colour black, it will simply ‘turn off’ that pixel. This is much more energy-efficient than older LED devices which use light even to display a black pixel.
You may have noticed ‘dark mode’ becoming an option on many applications in recent years. On modern OLED devices, it is a much more energy-efficient form of digital display, as dark mode emits less light and therefore uses less electricity.
When thinking about website design, you may wish to make use of the darker tones in your brand palette to help improve the energy efficiency of your site.
3. Focus your law firm’s website on UX, Content and SEO
The purpose of a law firm’s website is to convey information to visitors. Of course, we all want visitors to spend more time on our site, but what is important is that they are spending this time enjoying high-value content, rather than struggling to access the information they need. Getting visitors to the information they are after as quickly and seamlessly as possible is key.
The first step in this journey is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). It may not seem like an important factor at first glance, but at its core, the practise of SEO is getting users the information they need as efficiently as possible, so helps cut down on unnecessary time spent on the web.
Once a visitor has reached your website, the next step is directing them to the content they are after as quickly as possible - otherwise known as good UX (user experience) design. Examples of good UX practices include having prominent calls to action and easy-to-use navigation that intuitively directs visitors to the right content.
Finally, once they reach the page they are looking for, high-quality copy is essential. You want your website visitors to get the answers they were looking for, rather than going down a rabbit hole of links and ultimately spending unnecessary time browsing.
4. Enable Caching
Website caching means storing a copy of your website assets and/or page so it can be retrieved faster when a user lands on it. This happens at many stages, including browser caching (locally on a user’s computer in Chrome or Edge), CDN caching (a local proxy server which stores content closer to the end-user) and server caching (a fully built copy stored where your website is hosted).
Without caching, a page is requested and rebuilt from the server for every page view, which is very inefficient in terms of energy consumption but also site speed.
5. Run your website on renewable energy
The data centres where our website information is hosted use a lot of electricity. Although it is always a good idea to cut down on our energy consumption, another way to reduce our CO2 emissions is to switch to renewable energy to run the data centre hosting your website.
6. How can I measure the CO2 emissions of my website?
Website carbon has a tool you can use to check the carbon emissions of your website and compare it against others. They even have a badge you can proudly display on your website to show where you rank.
We ran the Conscious website through the tool, and it did OK, but it has given us some food for thought for optimising our website.
If you want to discuss how we can help make your website more sustainable, contact the team on 0117 325 0200 or email email@example.com.