Sustainable web design: Green web design explained

Sustainable websites can reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions through efficient design, lean codes, CO2-reduced hosting and long-lasting page design. How can sustainable web design be put into effect?

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What does website design have to do with the environment?

Internet use is now responsible for the same level of CO2 emissions as global air traffic and accounts for around ten percent of global electricity consumption. Diesel vehicles, airplanes, and cruises easily spring to mind when it comes to environmental pollution, but we ought to consider smartphone and computer use in addition when it comes to our carbon footprint.

The main reason for the Internet’s high energy requirements are the servers in data centers around the world, whose power consumption and cooling generate two to four percent of global CO2 emissions each year. But ultimately, websites also play a role: the more data a website consumes, the higher its power consumption. A simple website, for example, generates around 1.76 grams of CO2 per view. 20,000 views are already 352 kilograms of CO2.

It is therefore more than appropriate that IT companies and developers promote environmental protection and sustainability. This can be achieved through sustainable web design (also known as green web design).

What are the advantages of a sustainable website?

Whether it’s a professional website for artists or businesses, a personal blog, or a private website as a hobby, sustainable web design offers many advantages from an environmental perspective as well as for performance and reputation reasons.

For example:

  • Better performance via better loading times: The success of a website depends, among other things, on the loading time. If a page takes longer than three seconds to load, half of the visitors have already moved on. A sustainable website often loads faster and is more pleasant to use. Reasons include reduced resource consumption, lean code, and smaller data sizes due to less CSS, JavaScript elements, compressed images, and videos. Faster load times and lower power consumption in turn mean more cost-effective energy management.
  • SEO optimization via better ranking: A fast page loading speed and a user-friendly design can also have a positive influence on search engine rankings. Indeed, both are among the most important Google ranking factors. For this reason, sustainable web design is also important for search engine optimization (SEO).
  • Positive branding: For companies it is important to think about sustainability strategies in addition to implementing them for customers in the form of Green Marketing. This includes green web design, which can be displayed on your website and thus ensures a better, environmentally conscious brand and corporate perception.
  • Environmental protection and resource conservation: Efficient websites with long-lasting, sustainable design not only have a positive impact on visitor numbers and business success, but also on the environment. Less power consumption through sustainable websites and green hosting with green power mean less CO2 emissions and thus a contribution to more sustainability.
Tip

Web hosting from IONOS is fast, secure and flexibly scalable, and also in line with green web design: we run our data centers using electricity from renewable sources.

Here’s how to set up sustainable web design

The word “sustainability” is a buzzword in all areas of society – and we often see signs of sustainability in business in the form of certificates and seals of approval. While most people can visualize what sustainable agriculture, waste reduction, and emission-free traffic look like, sustainable web design remains a bit of a head-scratcher. The question with green web design is: What does a sustainable website even look like? Below, we’ll present four points that will help you understand and use sustainable web design.

Data-saving web design

For more sustainability through energy- and data-saving web development, it comes down to three points:

  • Avoid unnecessary data consumption
  • Provide an efficient page architecture
  • Use only media data with added value

Images, thumbnails, videos, style elements, advertising banners and animated page areas in particular use a lot of data, increase energy consumption and consequently increase emissions. Instead of overloading pages, use appropriate tools, compress images, and offer high-resolution video quality as an option rather than default. In addition, check which multimedia elements offer any added value to your site visitors at all.

Further energy-saving green web design tips and tricks include:

Durable design

Sustainability also means durability. A website that has a timeless and universally design — and does not follow short-lived fashion and design trends — ages more slowly and reduces the effort required for redesign and revision. This not only saves on staffing costs, but also electricity costs for time-consuming relaunches. Minimalist elegance with a clear, pragmatic structure and a long-term classic aesthetic is a sensible step towards green web design.

Green hosting and Green IT

According to the Guardian, the internet produces 300 million tons of CO2 per year, a quarter of which is emitted by data centers. That’s a staggering number, so if you want to offer a sustainable website, you should also think about the power consumption of the servers in web hosting. Green Hosting is the term used for hosting servers and data centers that are powered by electricity from renewable sources. So, as a website owner, pay attention to whether Green Hosting is offered or used by your host.

Green IT in turn, focuses not only on energy supply, but also on sustainable and holistic production and provision, smart IT use, and proper disposal of IT products.

You can recognize providers with green IT and green hosting strategies as follows:

  • Use of green electricity for server operation
  • Proper disposal or recycling of old hardware
  • Use of hardware with eco-certificates/labels
  • Certified energy management
  • Certified reduction of CO2 emissions
  • Promotion of environmental protection projects
  • Intelligent infrastructures (e.g. through virtualized and centralized services)
Tip

Make your online presence green with sustainability from IONOS. We run our data centers and offices on green power, use efficient IT infrastructures, and offer intelligent energy management for environmentally friendly processes.

Clear, sustainable code

Lean, clear code supports sustainable web design by ensuring less data consumption and less effort in maintaining code. Efficient programming can compress scripts such as CSS and JavaScript and avoid unnecessarily large data transfers during server communication. Caching — storing data in cache memory — can also be improved to prevent unnecessary data transfers. The more efficient and resource-saving algorithms and codes are, the more energy-saving and environmentally friendly the website will be.

Tools to check the sustainability and functionality of code include refactoring tools that check changes and replace obsolete code elements with new ones. There are also verification tools that check codes for their intended behavior, spot errors, and facilitate integrations. By keeping your code as clear and concise as possible, you’ll prevent code smell and code rot (obsolete, useless code elements) in the long run, not only increasing code efficiency but also improving your website’s carbon footprint.