From This Day won a tender to build a new low carbon website for Arran Eco Savvy. My name is Naomi Spirit, owner of From This Day, and I’m delighted to be invited to share a little bit about this project with you.
Who are From This Day?
From This Day are a small ethical web development company based in North Ayrshire with a similar ethos to Arran Eco Savvy. In 2017 we completed an environmental audit, improving many of our own operations. But until recently, even we had missed the importance of building “low-carbon” websites. We hope to help educate in this emerging area.
How does a website create carbon?
Servers are large groups of computers made using rare materials that run constantly and create a lot of heat which in turn requires extra cooling. They, therefore, use a vast amount of energy and resources. Every time we visit a webpage the information is sent from the server through a complex infrastructure to our device.
The internet consumes as much energy as the whole of the United Kingdom.
To achieve a low carbon website, we must consider the energy use in the end-users device, the server the website resides, and everything in between. Sounds overwhelming! But here’s the good news, a well-built website will naturally create less carbon. Considering a few extras on top will improve things further.
Redeveloping the Arran Eco Savvy website
Our starting place
An audit on the Arran Eco Savvy website using www.websitecarbon.com found that it was “dirtier than 95%” of sites, creating around 9.77g of carbon per visit. We presented a plan of how we could achieve a new site that was beautiful, usable and most importantly – low carbon.
Choosing Green Servers for Hosting a Website
Firstly we moved the site onto green servers. Kualo‘s web hosting business is built on green practices from the ground up. They were a natural choice to host the new website. You can read more about how Kualo achieved this on their green policy document.
In summary, they use certified renewable energy for their servers and employ a substantial carbon offsetting scheme. They consider themselves a carbon positive company.
Reviewing the old Arran Eco Savvy site
Next, to improve things further we needed to:
- slim down the amount of code used,
- the type and number of assets loaded,
- make the content concise and
- ensure a good user experience.
We applied this logic to several key areas outlined:
JPG and PNG images have a large file size even when compressed well. Our redesign uses bold colours, simple vector images (svgs) and system fonts. The use of colour is another way of achieving an attractive design without lots of images. The dark colour draws less power on the user’s device. System fonts allow us to take advantage of what’s already on a users computer.
Good site structure and search facilities are essential. Users click on more pages than necessary if they can’t find the information they need. This increases the amount of data they load/carbon they create. Therefore, we did a full content restructure to ensure users can quickly find what they need and made the search functionality easy to find.
We removed all unnecessary videos, images, slideshows, presentations, pages and news posts. The site was made current, and no extra unused content was taking up space.
Websites built on “themes” can be inefficient. They are often loading in code that’s not required and so we built a lean site from the ground up with nothing but essential code.
We reviewed the functionality the site had and removed anything unnecessary. Reviewing this highlighted anything duplicate or surplus to requirements.
Well configured server optimisations allowed us to compress remaining images and code to reduce file sizes further.
These considerations combined drastically reduced the file size of the page. Much less data is requested from the server. The new architecture allows the site to be much more findable.
Did we make a low carbon website?
In conclusion, the website now has a much smaller carbon load, and registers as “lower carbon than 87% of sites tested”. Great news for a carbon considerate organisation! In fact, the website now produces only 2.7% of the carbon it previously did.
You can look for yourself! On the bottom of each page is a website carbon calculator which shows how much carbon that page generates. Arran Eco Savvy can now see the effect of adding new content to the site which will allow them to make good content decisions.
We plant our trees through Trees For Life, a Scottish organisation working on re-wilding the highlands and reestablishing the great caledonian forest. Based on site usage this will more than account for the co2 generated by using the website.