Increase conversions and decrease emissions: The role of technology

Accessibility was once a niche consideration in the world of web development.

Today, it’s a cornerstone of inclusive web design – one that over 4 billion people worldwide benefit from. Yes, over 4 billion people use the internet worldwide. An immense feat of human innovation. But it’s a figure that comes with a hefty price tag. Digital technology now accounts for 4% of global carbon emissions, meaning the internet is now the single most polluting machine in the world.

This is where sustainable web design becomes a crucial schema. And organisations can lead the way.

New initiatives are being introduced to help businesses implement pivotal changes. The Worldwide Web Consortium (publishers of the official accessibility standards) has recently published WSG 1.0, the first draft of its Web Sustainability Guidelines. It encourages user-centred design, performant web development, renewable infrastructure, and sustainable business strategy. This is in addition to the Government Digital Sustainability Alliance (GDSA) - launched at COP27 to promote sustainable data and technology across UK government and its suppliers - and the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) - an EU-wide reporting requirement that, for now, affects 50,000 large scale companies.

Now, more than ever, positive contributions to and measurable efforts in sustainable web design can be made in collaboration with your digital partners. Last month, we hosted our first webinar on the subject, exploring the hidden ways in which clients can both increase conversions and decrease emissions. And when it comes to sustainable web development, there are 2 key factors to consider: Technology and Design. In this blog, we’ll be exploring the role of technology.

How sustainable web design benefits all

Sustainable websites are faster, more lightweight and served from locations that are near to the end user. These directly result in significant benefits like findability, improved user experience, and higher conversion. With the help of monitoring tools, you can get continuous insight and changing just a few lines of code can lead to tonnes of CO2e savings – saving you money in the process. Aligning with sustainability requirements and recommendations is good for the planet and business, positively affecting millions of people along the way.

Take advantage of the tools

Quantifying the carbon impact of your website is now easy with a variety of new monitoring tools. The Website Carbon Calculator is based on an algorithm developed with the Green Software Foundation. It looks at the data transfer and energy intensity of your website, along with energy sources, to calculate the approximate carbon impact of a given page. This can help guide crucial decisions on design and content. And if you want to monitor the carbon intensity of your website, Grid Intensity CLI tracks the time and location of traffic to offer insight on where and when users are most active.

Hold suppliers to account

How green is your supply chain? It’s important to make sustainability part of your procurement process by asking these questions of your digital suppliers:

  • Can you quantify the carbon impact of your activities?
  • What are your ongoing efforts to continually reduce your carbon impact?
  • Where do you host your services?
  • Do you make use of efficient modern technology, such as renewable-powered hosting; CDNs; containerisation?
  • Are your technical teams certified in Green Software techniques?

Use a CDN

Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) serve your digital assets from locations near to your users. The advantage of this is two-fold: websites become more efficient with data now having a shorter journey, and users enjoy a better experience thanks to faster content delivery. CDNs also offer caching, enhanced security, distributed computation, and other features that result in an overall more sustainable web design.

Set your byte budget

Page weight is measured by the kilobytes transferred over the internet when a webpage is loaded. With sustainable web design, the aim is to work out how to deliver the story with the least amount of data. It helps to compare with competitors and ask, “what would it take to be 10% better?” – but don’t let perfection hold back progress. Consider page weight before you jump into design and give yourself a budget to encourage collaboration between disciplines.

Leverage the cloud

Efficiency in sustainable web design means maximising the utilisation of your hardware, and Cloud computing infrastructure is designed to do just that. Websites looking to improve sustainability in their design can benefit from the hyper-scale and huge range of services offered. Cloud providers are also taking active steps to move exclusively to renewable power – sooner, rather than later – and making commitments to future water positivity. Good for the planet and the bottom line.

Do the bare minimum

Adopt “lazy loading” wherever you can. Think images, video, content, and code. When you reduce the weight of your website a few amazing things happen. Firstly, your pages load faster. Faster loading equals less energy used; less energy used equals increased sustainability! Secondly, you remove the unnecessary burden on your users by presenting them only with the things they need. And lastly, though no less important, you make it easier for your pages to cache in a CDN. It’s a win-win-win situation.

Watch the webinar

If you’re excited about sustainable web design and want in-depth insight from some of our in-house experts, follow along with our Delve series. Led by our Great State team members, we share the latest insights and guidance from the world of digital and tech to keep your customer experiences ahead of the curve. Ready to learn more about Sustainable Web Design? Watch the webinar here.

Related articles