Borders College

Sustainable web design

by Digital Skills Development Specialist and Lecturer, Nicholas Kubera

It's 2018, and most industries have environmental policies in place; curiously enough, the internet has none. It's due to the lack of standards that Sustainable Web Design is fast becoming a hot topic. According to a report published by Greenpeace in 2017, if the internet was a country, it would rank sixth for electricity usage. Because of that, various web developers across the globe wonder about the kind of standards that could be implemented for the web.

Sustainable web design

General consensus is that standards as such, while working for other industries, would have failed miserably for the web due to one simple reason: the web changes too quickly. New libraries, new technologies, and new specifications for the web are developed on a daily basis. Rather than have strict standards that will be always lagging behind the ever-changing ecosystem of the web, web developers put forward the idea that a more flexible set of widely-accepted, good practices that help in building sustainable web are required. Thankfully enough, sustainable practices in web development more often than not mean better user experience, especially – faster loading websites.

According to HTTP Archive, in March 2015 the average size of a website was about 2 megabytes. Three years later, in March 2018, the average size of a website has almost doubled in size. At a whopping 4 megabytes per website on average, the environmental impact becomes even more considerable, and the trend itself is unsettling. The good news is, bloated websites lead to slow loading times, which in turn create poor user experience. In theory, web developers should soon start to pay more attention to the load times of their websites, making them smaller in size and thus creating a more sustainable web.

In Borders College, students learn about sustainable web design practices such as optimizing images, decreasing their size sometimes even by 50%; using shared web libraries that (stored in the user's browser) don't need to be fetched from a web server anymore; creating better, more flowful user experience in order to decrease the amount of HTTP requests sent to the server, thus decreasing the amount of unnecessary data being requested; and also learning about green hosting, i.e. hosting powered by environmentally-friendly forms of energy. Tools such as Ecograder[5] are used by students to help them identify possible areas of improvement of their websites.

By teaching students about good practices in sustainable web design, we hope to educate the new generation of coders in a more environmentally-aware fashion. Being aware of the footprint of the internet, they will be able to design for the future – on one hand caring about the user, on the other honouring Mother Earth.

To find out more about the various ways Borders College is working to remain sustainable, visit our Sustainability News web page.

Sustainability matters

Published: Tue 27th Mar, 2018