Can Sustainable Websites Be Effective?

Sustainable website design: laptop and plants

Did you know that the internet emits 1.6 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions every year? Because of this, more businesses are thinking about new ways to become environmentally friendly.

Although a few years back, sustainability simply meant less plastic and more biodegradable materials, it now also concerns a brand’s online presence. This includes how many emails they send out, how they use social media, and most importantly – how they can make their website sustainable and effective.

Despite the correlation, many people have a hard time understanding the connection between a sustainable website and well, an effective one. This may be due to the myth that green websites can’t have pretty images or videos, don’t deliver a good user experience or follow a ‘basic’ aesthetic.

As experts in the industry, we are here to tell you that this simply isn’t true. In fact, sustainable websites are fast, mobile-friendly, and provide great UX. In other words, you don’t have to choose between an engaging user experience and sustainability.

So, How Can Effective Websites also Be Sustainable?

1. Determine Your Purpose & Choose the Appropriate Tools

When building your website, we recommend that you think carefully about your goals, select the best tools with those aims in mind, and take an honest look at what their purpose is. In many cases, features such as video content, maps & image carousels aren’t entirely necessary, and it is obvious that using flashy visuals also increases costs and reduces sustainability. On the other hand, if they are necessary, that is totally fine too – as long as they drive results.

Despite what industry you are in, the main goal is still to communicate ideas, offer knowledge, and persuade visitors to do a particular action (e.g. conversion). And almost always, those “flashy” gifs and videos really aren’t necessary.

2. Simplify the User Journey

A simpler website isn’t just more sustainable, but also tends to be easier to navigate. The less time a user needs to spend on your website, the less power is required and ultimately, the easier it is for them to find what they are looking for. This may seem counter-intuitive to modern marketing, as most will argue that you should keep people on your site for as long as possible.

But think about it, would you rather spend 30 minutes looking for something or 10 minutes? We hope that you would choose the latter!

Ways to simplify the user journey include:

  • Organising your menu
  • Including clear CTAs
  • Structuring your content & text

3. Optimise Your Images

Of course, every website needs images to break up text, add visual appeal & showcase products. However, they also require a lot more energy. In fact, the larger the image file, the more resources it needs to load. 

Some optimisations include:

  • Choosing the correct image size
  • Removing unnecessary images
  • Using concise and direct image names

Indeed, it’s fairly simple to remove all of the images, custom fonts, and other fancy features from a website. The version we would produce would likely have the lowest CO2 footprint available. The true issue, however, is striking a balance between the sustainability and effectiveness of a website.

So, why shouldn’t we sacrifice that user experience when it comes to sustainable web design?

There’s no denying that user experience is key, and it is not something to compromise on. If you cannot provide your visitors with the right information, and guide them through the page flow, then their presence on your website becomes unnecessary. This ultimately means that you have just produced some unnecessary carbon emission.

Of course, not all website visits end with a purchase or call or whatever the objective is, but it is really important to test what works best for you and to use your online tools and sources consciously. 

So yes, with correct optimisation, a smoother user journey & reduced ‘flashy’ visuals, your website can be both sustainable and effective. Meaning in most cases, compromise is not necessary!

Every bit of extra network transfer is okay as long as it has a valid purpose and realistic return in the context of our goals. Every extra image is a valid addition if we can reasonably assume someone will look for that to decide if they want to choose that product or service. Or alternatively, if we can keep a user from abandoning the site with a few extra animations or messages while they wait for a longer process to finish, it may be worth doing so. What I’m saying is that we should not be afraid to explore the possibilities of digital technology, even in terms of multimedia, as long as it has an associated goal.

So, if you’re striving towards a green website but still want to engage users, why not check out our Guide for a better-converting website?