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A Digital Game of Green Design: Integrating Sustainability in Web Design Practices

So, you’re living a sustainable life, good for you.

You’re probably taking time out of your busy schedule to tend to your flourishing garden, going on green parades, leaving your car behind, and cycling to work, as well as completely giving up on using paper and only using digital solutions.

But are all these actions pertain to the sustainable design of life? Sure planting trees and cycling to work is a great way to live sustainably. But are digital solutions really equal to going green?

In a way, it’s not. And if you think so then I’m sorry to inform you that you have fallen in the trap of false advertisements by conglomerates that try to sell their digital products by marketing them as sustainable.

But how can a website be a threat to the environment? It’s insane!

It is insane, but not exactly wrong. The threat to the environment is not only limited to cars, factories, and burning forests. There are many other threats, and going digital can be one of those threats to the environment.

Go Green By Going Online: A Pseudo Attempt To Save The Planet?

The first thing you need to remember is that in order to run, a website, app, or even a web search needs energy. Depending on various factors this energy consumption can be a lot or might be a little, but still, it uses energy and creates CO2.

Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/788540/energy-consumption-of-google/

These are only a few stats, but there are more. All these numbers and studies are proving that our continuous race to go digital and live in the virtual palace is causing an equal amount of harm to the environment compared to other environmental threats. Web
design and environmental issues are in conflict a can prove really harmful to all of us.

So does it mean all is lost? Is there no solution? Thankfully, there is. While we cannot curb our will to go online, we can practice sustainable web design.

Sustainable Design: A Tiny Step towards Green Internet

So, what is a sustainable design definition and how is it going to help the internet go green?

Well, it sure is not the green websites with images of trees and people enjoying nature that I can tell you. Sustainable product design is a design process created with the sole purpose of reducing the carbon footprint of both the company and the users.

The effects of sustainable design processes are something that we cannot see when using the site.

These practices are assimilated into the website before the design process even begins.

So what are these practices, and how are they going to help the businesses to reduce digital pollution? Let’s see!

· Optimizing Content And SEO: Not Exactly An Unconventional Move

What do content and SEO have to do with sustainability in web designing?

SEO, as believed by the populace, is not just a marketing activity to rank the site higher, and get more traffic/business. It is an attempt at altering the site in such a way so that users can find the information really fast. Through successful SEO on the website, businesses can easily reduce the amount of time the clients and web visitors are spending on the site, reducing the carbon footprint for both. This way, SEO has become a major part of a sustainable website design process.

Source: Photo by Merakist on Unsplash

Now we come to the content. Content is the king on a website, and often one might feel tempted to write content that is downright fancy, yet hard to understand. And in such instances, the user has to spend more time than needed on the site to understand the content. Or they will leave and find another source of information. Either way, they will have to spend a lot of tie on the net, and increase carbon emission rates. And that’s why it is a web designer’s duty to enhance and optimize the content to make it understandable.

· A Good UX Can Save Your Website (and The Environment!)

Digital sustainability a game of time and anyone with amazing UX on the site is going to win this game. Truly though, the matter of designing good experience is not just for the benefit of the company, it is also for the efficiency of the users. And what happens when the site offers efficiency in the form of good UX to the users? They spend less time on the site.

Source: Photo by Amélie Mourichon on Unsplash

The aim of a good UX design is to reduce friction when performing an action on the site. With a smooth interface and easy navigation, the designers can eliminate redundant actions from the site, reducing energy consumption and providing real value to the users both in functionality and sustainability. And that’s why it is important to integrate good UX for sustainable design.

· The Matter Of Visual Element: Sometimes You Don’t Really Need It!

Nothing beats the need of having beautiful visual elements on the website. However, this constant need for visual elements can cost sustainability on the website.

Image and videos make the pages heavy, and the heavier the page is, the more energy it needs to burn in order to load. That’s why to create a sustainable design; designers should stop and think about a few things-

a. Does the image add any real value to the page?

b. Does the image contain any important information?

c. Can the image be replaced by a sustainable graphic design?

The same thing goes for videos. While it is popular to have auto-playing videos or video background on websites, it is not entirely practical, nor is it sustainable design. Removing autoplay videos and making the videos shorter is actually going to help the website become more sustainable. But before integrating any video content on the page, the designers should ask themselves if it is really needed.

· Use The Right Words (Font Types) To Help The Environment

The matter of typography on websites is a thing that’s either ignored or overly done!

For those who ignore it, they are definitely missing out on an effective tool to engage the users. But at the same time, those who are overdoing it are causing a greater threat to sustainable web design. Having multiple kinds of fonts that are custom made is going to increase the page load time, burning more energy. So, what’s the solution?

Source: https://www.supremo.co.uk/typeterms/

Consider the use of the content, and whether it really does the customized font face or not. This is a matter where sustainability might actually clash with business interests, so any decisions made need to be deliberate. If the custom font is not adding value to the business or the users, there’s no need to have it on the site. In such instances, it is better to go with the basic fonts such as times new roman or Arial, that doesn’t take a lot of time to load.

And if the website does need custom fonts, then ensure that there is not too much change in the font style throughout the page. Having multiple font styles across the pages will make it too heavy to be sustainable. Practice sustainable product design protocols when choosing the font style of the pages.

· Go Responsive

When it comes to digital sustainability, most sustainable design consulting firms will suggest that responsive is responsible. A responsive website will be accessed through a smartphone more than a desktop device. As the size of the screen shrinks, so does the pixel number, and the codes to be different. Believe it or not, this actually makes the site more sustainable.

Source: Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

Besides using sustainable design software, the AMP approach can be another sustainable design choice for sites. The Accelerated Mobile Pages are stripped of all the excess codes, making the site leaner and lightweight, helping it to load fast. Google ranks AMPs higher on SERPs, helping the users to find information fast and without any friction. However, before choosing this approach, designers should keep in mind that there might be some downsides of using AMPs and the choice should be made carefully. As a business owner, one can consult with an experienced web design agency based in major cities like New York on the merits of an AMP approach.

· Progressive Web Apps Can Help

Companies often have trouble understanding whether an app will be better able to help them or a website. The best choice in this scenario is to build a PWA, also known as a progressive web app.

Through this technology, companies can enable websites to function just like an app on smartphones. It caches files and data on the device, which means that there is no need to keep loading the data every time the user visits the site. It improves the user experience as well as work as a sustainable product design practice.

· Last But Not The Least: Dark Is Not That Bad!

The dark mode is gaining popularity these days and it is not only because websites look slicker with this element. In reality, the dark mode saves a lot of power while displaying the website on the screen. In fact, it is the most battery and energy-saving practice right now.

Source: https://medium.com/microsoft-design/designing-for-dark-mode-more-than-flipping-a-switch-c21fb38722d2

And that’s why most sustainable graphic design firms are utilizing the power of dark mode. All because it looks good, at it might actually be the way to go green in the near future. And that’s why becoming a master of applying dark mode on websites should be the primary design aim for businesses right now.

Wrapping Up: Go Green, But Smartly!

Sustainable living at this point is not a lifestyle choice, it is a necessity. The only way we can help save the planet is if we exercise smart sustainability on all walks of life, and digital is one of those walks of life. Rather than blindly embrace the digital solution, let us all be clever about it, and only accept the web design and environmental solutions that are created with sustainability in mind and heart as the true purpose.

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