Sustainability is, thankfully, becoming a widespread concept in many industries. In the industrial design field, there are programs that allow you to swap out a material or production technique and factor their different environmental impacts. Often, when considering sustainable design we tend to factor carbon footprint, durability, renewability and adaptability of the product. But what about sustainable web design?
The question has been around for a while but there are no simple answers. In the one hand you could say the internet is already sustainable, since if you add all the pixels transferred in the public internet they would weigh only a few ounces, or as much as a strawberry. However, there are estimates that 2% of the world’s electricity goes towards powering that one strawberry. Considering approximately 34 million people lack access to modern electricity services, that seems like a lot to me.
So how can web design come into play? Since the design of a site directly influences how energy-hungry it will be, designers can work on making the web lighter. I’m not saying all websites should have white type on black background. Nor that we should go back to text-heavy pages with no imagery. Those actions might save a bit of energy but, ultimately, might not lead to the best user experience.
For me, the way to sustainability seems to be in effective design. An effective site should provide people with fast access to interesting content. That means sustainable web design is:
Accessible. This means light image files (http://www.smushit.com/ysmush.it/) that can be seen regardless of user’s internet connection speed.
Responsive. So it can be accessed by many different devices.
Pertinent. You shouldn’t need a re-design every few months, the design should be able to adapt to content.
So this week, when you visit this blog and it looks like you’ve landed somewhere else – don’t despair. You’ll be in the right place. We are changing our current design for a more sustainable version.