Climate Change & Website Performance

In a nutshell:- The internet is now a significant contributor to carbon emissions. However – cutting edge, high performing websites can dramatically reduce your organisations carbon emissions, and we can help. Below are the benefits of better performance and some starting points for your consideration.

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Internet Carbon Emissions

Internet usage and the carbon emissions of websites goes somewhat under the radar when it comes to discussing climate change. Which is odd, as roughly 3.7% of global emissions are from internet usage, with the potential to double by 2025 (Hazas, 2020). In fact – emissions from the internet are likely to have now surpassed air travel (Climate Care, 2021).

While this and other data we have gathered on the topic previously may be alarming, we must bear in mind that other factors are decreasing emissions elsewhere. For example, the pandemics effect on digitisation and travel emissions data (BBC, 2020). However, even with improved efficiencies in data centres and increasing digitised processes throughout economies, the internet continues to grow and demand more energy (IEA, 2021).

Therefore, it is incredibly important for organisations that are looking to reduce their carbon emissions to be aware of how a modern, high performing website and domain host structure can help them achieve this.

Benefits of Website Energy Efficiency

Reducing emissions often seems to involve drawbacks to business related prospects. On the contrary, making a website energy efficient adds further value, a win-win situation if executed correctly.

  • Faster loading times.
  • Search engine optimised.
  • Improved user experience and journey.
  • Server friendly.
  • Improved accessibility.
  • Streamlined CMS.

Measuring Energy Consumption

You don’t know how effective something is if you can’t measure it.

A websites energy usage includes the work done by the server, the user, and the data communications relay that connect and transfer information between the two.

So how do you measure the energy usage? It may not be possible to get exact measurements, but measuring certain criteria can provide reasonably accurate metrics.

  • Data transfer / network activity

Browser developer tools allow us to monitor the activity and quantity of data transfer. Ensuring that items are compressed on the transfer can streamline these transmissions further.

  • CPU Usage / Memory

Task Manager and alternatives can track and monitor these metrics on tabs. There are tools such as WebsiteCarbon available that convert these metrics into estimates of emission.

It’s recommended to measure over a long enough time period to gain a reliable sample size. If possible, automate the monitoring of on-going usage across several months to get the most accurate measures, and adjust accordingly.

Streamline Requests & Trim the Fat

We have come across many websites that have unnecessary requests built in. Combing through and scrutinising the build can result in identifying a lot of things that are encumbering your website. For example, CMS bundles that come with prebuilt requests to carry out functions you won’t be using. Other examples are HTTP requests that are either not needed or can be defaulted to the much more efficient HTTP/2 if it suits the client and their target audience/user-base. Furthermore, can you achieve the same goals/functions with the less intensive JavaScript?

Imagery, Video, and Fonts

Using compressed imagery with the right size and format can reduce transfer efforts and speeds. Also, once again – is the imagery achieving something like an improved user experience, or can it be stripped away without affecting anything?

Embedded videos from third party sources like YouTube can add megabytes of additional data before it is even used.

Many websites carry unused fonts, or have an unnecessary array of them at the ready.

Why all the Analytics?

On a similar vein to trimming the fat – website analytics and third party analytics integration must also be justified. It is very often that we find users acquiring analytics from their websites without clear justification or purpose. This not only wastes time, but it also adds unneeded lifting and congestion to the website.

Servers Play a Huge Role

The front-end is only one side of the equation, the back-end must also be taken into account.

Compression – This is common practise. However, it goes overlooked, and in some cases compression on transfer is disabled. Enabling compression on file and asset transfers reduces the effort (and energy) it takes to send and receive data.

Cache – Another tool that can make the delivery and performance of a website much better. Cache can be a highly effective instrument, or it can work against you if the configuration is poor. Accessing the server can allow for cache configuration, and can improve load times dramatically.

HTTPS – HTTP – In our experience, we default to HTTP, but use HTTPS with HTTP/2 protocol where the client supports it. Using HTTPS and can dramatically increase serve speeds, paired with Cloudflare DNS – you can achieve a very fast, sleek and highly secure website.

Faster Servers – Employing a faster server. In many cases, simply upgrading servers, or employing more to share the workload will most likely have dramatic improvements. A suitable analogy is a motorway system – if you improve the roads themselves and add additional lanes, congestion is minimised.

This is our field of expertise, contact us if you want to leverage our 20 years of practise to improve your website.

We even take on the unusual, challenging, ‘impossible’  jobs that require a high level of technical ability, so get in touch.

Author
Michael Warren
UX&D Lead

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