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Creating sustainable websites at Epinova goes without saying

By Christine Freeman Reading time: 4 minutes

Climate anxiety and the desire to reduce our climate impact guide us in almost everything we do. And the issue of sustainable websites is no exception. How does our endless scrolling on the web affect the environment?

Sustainability is part of our daily work at Epinova. We have implemented sustainable adaptations to our framework. In this blog post I list what affects the environment the most and how we have solved it for our clients. In addition there are measures that you can do yourself to reduce your website's environmental impact.

How do the internet and websites affect the environment? 

The internet affects the environment because it requires electricity but also large datacentres to store the data that is displayed on websites. It is estimated that the internet accounts for 4 per cent of global emissions, a figure that is believed to double by 2025 (article).  

When you measure a website's performance, you usually talk about the weight of a web page; how much data needs to be loaded to open a web page, or the amount of information that was transported from the server to the client. According to The HTTP Archive, the average website needs 2.3 megabytes of data to open a desktop version of a website. Mobile sites are just below with 2.1 megabytes. If your website contains many web pages, you need more storage space at the datacentres. This goes to show that performance and hosting mounts up as the biggest culprits in affecting the environment.

5 steps to make your website eco-friendly 

Applying sustainable measures to your website not only has a positive impact on the environment but also makes your website both faster and more user friendly. It results in a better website as well as a direct improvement for the visitor.

Below I have listed measures that have the greatest environmental impact and how you can improve them. We at Epinova think that it is a matter of course to think sustainably and have implemented some of them into our framework solution.

Here is how to get an eco-friendly and sustainable website: 

1. Switch to green hosting  

Make sure that your IT provider uses a datacentre that uses green energy or at least climate compensates. Many of Epinova's customers use Optimizely's cloud solution DXP. The servers are located at Microsoft Azure's Swedish datacentre, which is operated with 100 per cent carbon-free energy and supporting zero-waste operations. Here you can read more about Microsoft's investment in Sweden 

2. Use the correct image size and format

You can significantly improve performance by using responsive images or changing images to the correct web format. Responsive images are images that rescale and adjust their size and resolution based on the device or screen they are displayed on. The functionality also adapts to the space, whether it is a large hero image or a smaller thumbnail image.  

At Epinova, we have built our own feature called Epinova Responsive Images that resizes images automatically. It is available to all our clients because performance is something that we are passionate about. The chart below illustrates the result of introducing responsive images to Elite Hotels' website.  

Converting images to webP, which is a more modern image format for the web, is also something that is done automatically in Cloudflare, which is part of Optimizely DXP.

Line chart showing the decrease in image size over time

Line chart showing reduced image size over time

Source: Speedcurve, https://www.elite.se/hotell 

For those who do not use a responsive image feature or have webP images, there is another option. You can manually change your images by using a free online tool. Start by testing your website in a performance program such as Lighthouse, which is available in the Chrome browser, to see which images weigh the most and should be replaced. Then use a free online tool for example https://tinypng.com/ to convert your images to webP image format.

3. Load images locally and when in use  

Another way to speed up the loading of a page is to display images when they are visible on the screen through lazy loading or to use caching. Lazy loading means that visitors do not have to wait for a web page to finish loading images that are positioned at the bottom of the page. Instead the content and top image are shown and images below loaded as you scroll down the page. This is done by caching images and showing them when they are needed. This is also a no-brainer for our web developers and therefore something we apply to all our sites.

An example where we use lazy loading is on elite.se. The image-heavy listing page for hotels, elite.se/hotell, has improved by 32 per cent in performance and currently has an 88 score in Lighthouse. The main reason for better performance is in fact lazy loading and responsive images.

4. Have a clear navigation and working search function 

In addition to the technical aspects, visitor behaviour also has a climate impact. Having a clear navigation and a working search function mean that fewer clicks are needed to find the information visitors are looking for. You can easily make improvements to the microcopy, layout and search results by analysing your visitors' behaviour via recordings made in, for example, Hotjar or search history in Google Search Console. Use more simpler language, familiar terms and assist your visitors in finding what they are looking for.

5. Increase the relevancy of your content 

UX writing and writing for the web affects the user experience and relevancy, which in turn reduces unnecessary scrolling on the website. Sometimes we want visitors to immerse themselves in our content. However we want to avoid visitors wasting time looking for relevant information. In other words, clear and effective UX writing leads to reduced energy waste. Subsequently if visitors find the correct web page faster you are rewarded by Google's algorithms and thus get a better ranking, a win-win simply!

Bottom line - start testing today 

To get started with your sustainable improvements, I suggest that you test your website to see how well it performs and if it is hosted on green energy. I recommend https://ecograder.com/ which provides a detailed report for your website in terms of performance, UX design and hosting.

If you don't have green energy, put pressure on your hosting provider. The main reason being that you can reduce your carbon dioxide emissions by 9 per cent by choosing a green supplier. Also start customising your content and images. Show only what is relevant and what visitors want to know. Use images to reinforce your message, not visually fill out the pages.

There is, of course, more you can do in other areas for example SEO and web design. We can help you move forward and are happy to make personalised suggestions on how to improve your website.

Last but not least, think smart and efficient. And relieve yourself from your climate anxiety.

We would like to hear what you think about the blog post

    Christine Freeman

    Project Manager

    Epinova designs and develops websites, e-commerce and digital services for leading companies and organizations in the Nordic region. Do you want to know how we can help your company? Get in touch and we will tell you more!