Building a Low-Impact Website

The internet uses A LOT of energy. It's something that most people, (including myself until recently) don't consider. This high energy usage therefore creates carbon emissions, which lead to the speed up of climate change.

Low impact websites can work across a whole range of website applications. From the simple portfolio website, to ecommerce sites.

The idea of a low impact website is a relatively new concept. So examples are quite hard to find. But there is one company who are really moving the needle with their contribution to battle climate change:

The Danish sustainable clothing company Organic Basics offer a low impact version of their ecommerce website. This simplified offering still allows the user to purchase their clothing online, whilst reducing the data transfer of each page by staggering figures. The front page of their low impact website is 7.56x smaller than their regular front page. They also show the user how many grams of CO2 they have saved during their visit to the website.

The Organic Basics Low ImpactWebsite screenshot
Organic Basics' low impact homepage.

So what can we as web designers do to counteract this?

Offering a 'low impact' website to clients is a great start. Reducing the data transfer (the bit that uses energy) whilst maintaining usability should be the key focuses here. The client doesn't need a huge budget or to employ a high end web design agency to create an effective low impact version of their website.

The basics steps to reducing data transfer is actually pretty simple. I recently re-designed a my client Flow With Fran's website to bring to light her stand on ethics and environmental impact. And here's the main things that I focussed on during this project:

Images:

  • I reduced the number of photos on the website. There are now only two on the whole website. This step also included removal of an Instagram feed on the homepage. If users want to see the client's Instagram then they can easily do it by clicking through on the links within the navigation.
  • I used black and white versions of the photos. Reducing the colour usage of a screen helps to reduce the energy consumption of that device. It also massively reduces the file size of the photo.

Colour Palette:

  • Really limiting the colour palette, whilst retaining the brand's aesthetics has impacted the energy usage. Colours are a tricky one. Using too much white is a bad thing, as screens use more energy to create the lighter colours. Darker colours use less energy, but they also can cause usability issues for some users.


Font Choices:

  • I spent a bit of time reducing the font choices and sizes throughout the website. This is a great exercise for any web designer, as it helps create consistency, whilst reducing the complexity of the site (and therefore reducing it's energy usage).


All of this had a massive contribution to the website's data transfer. The homepage's data transfer was reduced by a massive 60%. This not only has a big impact on page loading times, but contributes to lowering the energy usage each time a customer visits the website.

The Flow With Fran lo impact website
Flow With Fran's Low Impact homepage.


Check out the new low impact version of the Flow With Fran website: https://www.flowwithfran.com

The idea of a low-impact website is something that is new to me, but I'll be committing to emptying these ideas to each web project in the future, including a re-design of my own website. I know that this is just one small website amongst a sea of millions of websites. But even if your making small steps to reduce your impact on the environment, every step is worth it.

And if you have any questions on how to reduce the environmental impact or your website or have a project in mind, drop me an email.

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