Easy and Affordable Ways to Make Your Website Greener

Posted on September 18, 2011 by
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Today, many computer analysts and experts are addressing topics like carbon footprint of computing and ways to make computers contribute in green campaign. Consequently, it is also a good time for web designers to contribute to a cleaner and greener computing world. Nowadays, users and practitioners are steering the Internet toward a reliable and safe storage for all kinds of data primarily through the cloud technology. You should take a step back and examine how the trend could fit into a cleaner computing world. After all, Web designers and developers are the real labors of the Web; they are the ones who cement the information blocks, brick by brick.

However, we need to make sure that the construction runs true. We should have our eyes on the big picture. We should ensure that our work processes are as eco-friendly as they could be. This is more than just making our work process greener, we need to make sure that the speed of delivery, aesthetical elements and functional features of the website are not negatively affected by the green approach.

A research tried to measure the physical weight of the Internet. When all data-carrying electrons in the cyberspace are collected on a scale, they would weigh less than 60 grams, however, we need 50 millions horsepower to run them. It was also calculated that the energy needed to provide results for 10,000 Google searchers is equal to gasoline consumed for a 5-mile trip using an average car. As the broadband Internet access is becoming cheaper and more widespread, ironically, many web designers and developers tend to build more cumbersome and power-hungry website.

The average webpage size grew from less than 100kB to 500kB, in the past eight years. While data access performance has significantly improved, we always forsake basic compression techniques for increased user experience and quality; hence the files behind our website are getting bulkier. Eight years ago, web designers aimed for less than 25kB per image, but now they won’t feel guilty of using 150kB images, thinking simply that the high speed broadband service can handle it. Although more interactive and richer website experience don’t go unnoticed, a large amount of energy is needed to house, cool and power the server; and to deliver the data to personal computers and mobile devices. A research conducted in the Harvard University revealed that access to a simple webpage generates approximately 20 mg of CO2 per second. However, if the webpage has high resolution images, interactive animations and complex server-fed data, the CO2 emission rises to 300 mg of CO2 per second. So when, a user from Japan accesses webpage hosted in the US, there would be at least one power plant working in each continent to deliver the energy needed to complete the process. Since billions of people are using the Internet, the energy needed to run the Web accounts for 2 percent of the worldwide CO2 emission. In 2007, for the first time, the carbon footprint of communication and information industry surpassed that of the aviation industry.

Although the measurement of CO2 emission is still a foggy area, due to variation of energy source used, it is important to remember that every webpage we created have consequences to our environment. According to the worldwidewebsize.com, the Internet will be consisted of more than 20 billion indexed pages soon.

Web designers and developers should use CO2Stats, an online calculator that can help them to create greener websites more easily and in an accountable way. The tool doesn’t only calculate the carbon footprint of servers; it takes into account the CO2 emission of networks and end-user devices.

For all intents and purposes, you need to continuously refer to the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), a central point where you can get best practices of web design. Its Mission Statement is clear, which is to maintain the long term growth of the Internet.

Although we are already capable in delivering one of W3C’s goal: a highly interactive World Wide Web. Web designers, in particular, have the creative license to come up with visually appealing contents. Web designs should educate, entertain and emotionally impact users and these are essential to interface usability, clarity of illustration and strength of branding. Web designers should maximize the effect of all website components, for example, graphics should enhance the appearance of web pages. In fact, you can use green website initiatives as a valuable marketing asset. For example, by implementing a CO2-neutral website program, your customers may appreciate your participation in reining the CO2 emission of the World Wide Web. You can do this by regularly posting images of recent tree planting activities, which can offset your carbon footprint. Put a badge, such as “My Blog Is Carbon Neutral” or “CO2 Neutral Website” on the main page to make it clear to the customers that you’re contributing to the well-being of the Earth.

What color should you use?

While there is still a controversy whether a completely black palette requires less energy than a bright white one, there are many proponents of darker website. It was estimated that if Google uses dark background on its web interface, the company may save about 750 MWh each year. Blackle is a Google-powered search engine, which uses dark background and established by Heap Media, a Sydney-based media company. It’s based on the idea that the monitor will require less energy when displaying darker elements. Alternatively, you can use EMERGY-C color palette, which requires slightly higher energy consumption than black.

Sustainable web hosting

Many green web hosting packages use 100 percent renewable energy and you should consider them when developing a new website or re-branding an existing website. Explain to the client that it can add value to the marketing campaign. Treehugger lists reliable solar- and wind-powered web hosting companies.

Remove unused files

You should examine the peripheral consequence of your web designs. If a website has fifty unoptimized 200kB images, you can reduce your carbon footprints and save 7.5 MB of storage space, by optimizing these images to 50kB each. As Web designers and developers, you should do your bit to make the World Wide Web free from digital litter and consumes less energy. Regularly look for unused, orphaned and redundant files in your hosting account. For example, there could be JavaScript files or server-side scripts that are left orphaned and no longer in use due to recent changes. There are tools you can use to crawl webpages and find unused files, such as Inspyder Orfind (Windows) and SiteCleaner (Mac). WebsiteCleaner can help you to optimize files in your website by stripping metadata and unnecessary characters.

To get a breakdown of external objects and file size, use both Page Speed Add-On and Firebug extension on Firefox.

Optimize media files

When working with in-page images, optimize them to 20kB each and for larger, full screen images, they shouldn’t be higher than 75kB. Admittedly, our behaviors and tools used have a significant impact on the efficiency of our web site. JPEG, PNG and GIF standards offer image compression feature. Because approximately 60 percent of webpages is made of media files, you should employ a stringent file optimization practice to reduce the overall carbon footprint of the server, network and end-user devices. Videos can be the ‘dirtiest’ component in your website, because they are big, require more network resources and make end-user devices consume plenty of energy.

Conclusion

Initial steps in making your website greener is relatively easy and affordable. Perform optimization and efficiency practices that can reduce your carbon footprint, such as using low wattage color palette, perform regular housekeeping and file optimization. If possible, transfer your website to a green hosting package, preferably if your current hosting provider offers one. The Internet grows quickly and it is increasingly more difficult to fathom how despite geographical restrictions, we are working collectively to establish the greatest infrastructure on the world. A construction phase in web development project is always a virtual sojourn for everyone involved, but we should leave an imprint that can be measured physically. Many web designers think that it is not their responsibility to make websites more environmentally-friendly. There are still no official established maximums that cap the webpage size and restrict “digital litter” on a website. To a degree, money and energy are wasted, if a website is poorly maintained and optimized. By using money saved from the efficiency process to green initiatives, you take a real part in making the cyberspace a cleaner place. Within the past eight years, average webpages have increased five-fold in size to about 500kB. At this rate, we could be looking at 1MB webpages by 2020.Whatever stance you take when tackling with this issue, you should remember one fact: good things often come in small sizes.

About: This Article was Contributed by Raja. He is a Web Hosting industry watcher and writes regularly on Dedicated Hosting Reviews and Reseller Hosting Reviews.

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