Sustainable websites: why should we care?

Sustainable feauture websites

According to Sustainable Web Manifesto, if the internet was a country, it would be the 4th largest polluter!

A huge portion of what we deliver here at PW Creative exists online, and as responsible global citizens we have a duty to ensure that we are doing ‘our bit’ – but it can be easy to forget the impact of the work we do. There is often no perceivable difference between a website that’s built with sustainability in mind, and one that isn’t. The unavoidable truth is that for every website visit, energy is consumed and C02 is produced.

The good news for PW clients, is that we’ve been driven by high standards for some time now, and crucially, we have some control over just how much energy our websites consume.

Sustainability and site speed go hand in hand, and anyone working in Web Development will know that baked into Lighthouse and Page Speed Insights – Google’s own site audit tools – is a strong motivation towards lighter, leaner sites. By adhering to these recommendations, we not only score higher, but we also deliver more optimised websites.

Because we care very much about what we do, even without the nudge from Google we’d be looking for ways to improve our output. If there’s a better way to do something, we’re interested – that’s in part what drives us.

More good news – yay! – is that the steps we can take to minimise our impact and deliver clean sites are many and pain free. Here’s how we do it.

Custom build every time – no off-the-shelf themes or page builders

Essentially this means that we are in complete control of every aspect of the build. Nothing gets on the page unless we say so, which allows us to be really smart in our decisions about what actually does make the cut. Off-the-shelf themes and page builders are generic by their very nature – they need to be useful to the most amount of people to succeed – and with that comes a) lots of stuff that you may not use/need and b) more stuff that you definitely won’t need.

Lazyloaded, responsive & optimised images

Images, along with video, can be the worst offenders. In short, we don’t load an image unless you can see it, and when we do, we choose the right size for the device you’re using. (WordPress handily creates multiple variations of the same image out of the box for this very reason). If you’re on a mobile, you’ll see the mobile crop, and if you’re on a 27” iMac, you’ll see the original image. Lastly, any image we serve will be optimised first – the process of performing minute, barely noticeable reductions in quality to lower the file size.

DIY approach and a reduced reliance on plugins

Plugins are great because they’re quick (in fact, there are some plugins that we could not live without). But for every plugin there is often a stylesheet, and a javascript file, and 99% of the time you get more than you need. Effective plugins are generic and broad, to satisfy the widest audience, but often what we need is quite niche functionality. The answer? Do It Yourself.

Dynamic, Sustainable thinking

We recently made the decision to stop using css frameworks, for the same reason we don’t use off-the-shelf themes. While they speed up development and can make collaborative working easier, they’re also another set of decisions made by somebody else. These tools are just code that someone else wrote, to make your life easier – which is fine while that relationship lasts. By not using them as a jumping off point, we’ve reduced the size of our CSS files by half – and we’ve completely removed the need for CSS overrides.

Using a preferred green web host

As well as building smart and making better decisions during the design and build process, we use a green web host and the tools they’ve developed as part of their commitment to sustainability. We’re constantly assessing our strategies, seeking out ways to make improvements and guiding clients down a path of success matched with sustainability. By further measuring our work using a Carbon Calculator, we hope to deliver even lighter, environmentally friendly WordPress sites in the future.

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