When you think about website performance, speed and usability probably spring to mind. We talk a lot about the positive impact on users when your website performs well. But did you know that the environment benefits too? This post offers an insight into the benefits of a fast website that you might not have thought of. Plus, a few tips on how to reduce your website’s carbon footprint.
What do we mean by website performance?
At its most basic level, website performance means the speed and efficiency with which your site performs its functions. This incorporates factors such as:
- Page load time
- Overall user experience
A site that is performing well allows users to complete any actions they require with no delays or errors. In the digital era we live in, this is what users have come to expect. Quick, seamless functionality help visitor retention, reduced bounce rate and increased website conversions. That’s why most of us prioritise website performance in order to provide a positive user experience.
How can website performance affect sustainability?
Whilst it’s not the first thing we think of in terms of good website performance, sustainability is well up there on the list of positive effects of a fast, efficient site. If a site is well-optimised, it doesn’t put so much pressure on the server, requiring fewer resources. This in turn leads to lower energy usage and therefore a smaller carbon footprint.
And although we’re talking about environmental sustainability, business sustainability matters too. Improving website performance can lead to increased visitor satisfaction, customer loyalty and repeat business.
Reducing bounce rates through faster loading times is bound to increase the satisfaction of your site visitors. This in turn increases your credibility, improves brand loyalty and can even lead to word of mouth recommendations. After all, would you recommend a company if buying a product or booking a service on their website felt like a chore?
Energy efficiency and carbon footprint reduction
If you’re looking to reduce your company’s carbon footprint, optimising your website might not be your first stop. Whilst an efficient website might not have as much impact as cutting out air travel, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth looking into – especially when you take into account all the additional benefits.
An efficiently designed and well coded website will minimise the loading of unnecessary elements. For example, you might remember from our post about performance auditing and optimisation that redirect chains cause multiple jumps between the page you request and the one you ultimately end up on. Without these unnecessary redirects, the website requests less from the server which in turn uses less energy.
And of course, don’t forget your site visitor has been sitting waiting for a response whilst the redirects do their thing. The increased efficiency is going to please them too. So, let’s take a look at a few ways to reduce your website’s carbon footprint – AND increase customer satisfaction while you’re at it.
9 ways to reduce the carbon footprint of your website
Some sites do better than others in terms of carbon consumption. So, before you start trying to reduce your carbon usage, take a look at how much carbon your site consumes using the carbon calculator. If your site leaves room for improvement, here are a few options.
1. Reduce image size
Images significantly contribute to the size and load-time of a page. Larger files transfer more data and energy, so to avoid slow-loading pages, use images with the correct size and format for your site.
2. Remove redundant content
We all need to create new posts and pages. In fact, if you want to get anywhere with SEO it’s pretty important. But it’s crucial to monitor the number of pages on your site and determine if they are essential or redundant. Regularly cleaning up unnecessary pages saves energy and helps visitors to find the right content.
Bear in mind that a lot of the visits to your websites will be from bots. In fact, bots are thought to make up around 40% of total internet traffic according to Imperva. These are not capable of ignoring redundant pages, so removing them is a great way to reduce the energy consumed by your site. You can also block bad bots from accessing your site.
Unnecessary content isn’t just whole pages either. If your writing style is somewhat woolly, feel free to get to the point. Fewer words means lower energy consumption.
3. Use a green host
Using a “green” hosting company is an easy way to reduce the environmental impact of your website. Green hosting providers use highly energy-efficient data centres that operate using renewable energy sources. Check out The Green Web Foundation to find hosts whose values align with your carbon-reduction goals, or talk to us about green WordPress hosting from our provider, Clook.net*.
4. Use clean coding
Simple, clean code will allow you to write efficient queries avoiding duplication. When using WordPress, bear in mind that even if the coding of your site is great, plugins could be causing issues. Try to stick with plugins that minimise server load and don’t add unnecessary weight to your pages.
5. Remove unnecessary plugins
Whilst some plugins are better than others in terms of efficiency, if you don’t need it, just get rid of it. This can improve your site security as well as decreasing data usage.
6. Reduce http requests
Reducing the amount of files requested from the server speeds up delivery of the files we do need. Plugins are a guilty party here again, because they can often unnecessarily request multiple resources. To reduce this, you can use “wp_dequeue_script” and “wp_dequeue_style” to filter out assets you don’t need. Further information on reducing http requests is available from our WordPress performance auditing and optimisation blog.
7. Use browser caching
Browser caching can further shorten your page load times by saving a copy of your content on the hard drive of a device. That means that next time the user loads your page, most of the info will already be stored so it loads quicker. Meaning less pressure on the server and therefore lower energy consumption.
8. Avoid multiple redirects
As mentioned above, redirects considerably slow down your site’s response time and increase requests to the server. That’s why removing them can be a quick fix for lowering your carbon footprint.
9. Avoid page builders
The problem with page builders is that they increase the response time due to unnecessary code in each page. If you’re serious about reducing your site’s carbon footprint, it might be time to go for a well-designed bespoke theme, or a site created directly in the WordPress Gutenberg editor.
Chloë Thomas, author and founder (amongst other things!), had this to say about how our work more than halved the carbon footprint of her websites after we migrated them away from the Elementor pagebuilder to a bespoke WordPress theme:
We started a rebranding and speeding up (for SEO) process in January that’s been going live over the Summer – and it’s more than halved the carbon of each page load. Without changing any content – just cleverer coding and better tools…Chloë Thomas, author and founder of eCommerce MasterPlan
If you’d like to talk about optimising your website to improve sustainability and significantly reduce the carbon footprint of your digital presence, get in touch for a chat.
Lead photo by Johann Siemens // * denotes affiliate link