Making digital products more sustainable
When we think about sustainability, we often think about physical things – recycling rubbish, ditching plastic water bottles, switching lights off. Of course, all of these things are important, and we should all continue to do them where we can, but there is another huge culprit in the climate crisis that often goes unmentioned: the internet. Have you ever been online shopping, watching a movie on a streaming platform or sent an email and wondered how it might be affecting the planet? The answer to this for most people is probably ‘no’. However, the ICT industry globally is quickly growing into one of the largest producers of carbon emissions, and could potentially use 20% of the worlds electricity by 2025. Right now, the internet overall uses more electricity than whole of the UK, and it has been predicted that by 2025, it will produce more carbon emissions than any country apart from China, India and the US. So, what can the digital product design and development community do about this? Here are some things to consider to help lower the carbon emissions of your digital products… The importance of having an efficient website Having an efficient website or application is an important part of good user experience. Research by Google suggests that over half of users will leave a mobile page that doesn’t load within 3 seconds. As consumer expectations for efficient digital products grow, businesses should consider that this also plays a part in lowering CO2 emissions from websites. The faster a page loads, the less energy it uses, the average web page produces between 0.5g – 1.76g of CO2 per view – when you think of all of the people using your product, this could really add up. A great way of improving load times of your product, and keeping the whole team on board with this is to set a page weight budget. This means setting a budget for how much a webpage can weigh (in kilobytes or megabytes). This works the same as any other budget – everyone who is contributing to the project should be keeping the budget in mind and taking measures not to exceed it. If you’re interested in learning more about how your company can create a page weight budget, there are some initial steps you can take, which you can find out more about here and here! So, you’ve set a page weight budget – now how can your team stick to it? There are a few areas of a webpage that usually consume the most energy and reduce the overall efficiency, these are: Media assets When designing a digital product, it can be easy to get carried away with using fancy animations, eye-catching imagery and even videos, but these could be having a detrimental effect on both your user and the planet. Media assets cause longer page load times which can cause frustration for your users, and produce extra carbon emissions. Of course, some images and animations are needed but designers should consider the following: which ones are actually adding value to the user? Could some be removed or replaced with smaller assets? Consider the images themselves – could you replace your bright and busy imagery with more simple ones with reduced colour palettes? This can be a great opportunity for getting creative and using problem-solving skills to achieve the same effect but more efficiently. » Read More
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