Sustainable web design makes the internet more accessible

The hot topic at the moment is sustainable web design and how it can help make data more accessible to people living in areas with low bandwidth/slow internet and at the same time cause less pollution. In this article, we will talk about how sustainable web design contributes to a more accessible internet and why it causes less pollution.

What does accessible internet mean?

The internet is as of this moment very accessible to people if they have a fast connection that can keep up with today’s rapid rate of development. In the world of web design and development, we see a trend where time to production means more than the quality of the product. This often results in heavy websites that require MBs of data for every website visit and often long loading times. The solution to this is quite often to scale up the server hosting the website and hope that the problem will disappear instead of fixing the root cause which will be poor design choices, bad structure, heavy dependencies, and much more. 

So what does accessible internet actually mean? The internet is accessible since it can be accessed by almost anyone on the planet, it only requires a device that can connect to the internet, a web browser, and then you will be ready to access information from anywhere in the world. This means that the internet is accessible to anyone that wants to connect to it, but for some, it requires more effort than others. 

Global users only using 2G and 3G connections

Recent reports show that about 46% of the global mobile users still use exclusively 2G and 3G connections (source), and 30 million Americans alone are still using only the 3G network daily (source). If you have lived long enough to have tried these types of connections, then you know the struggle of accessing data within a reasonable time. But to you that haven’t tried browsing using these slow connections then we have made a comparison below based on a medium to a heavy-sized website on 10MB.

  • 2G connection: Has a base speed of 64Kbps so 10MB would take approximately: 21.50 minutes and 50 seconds.
  • 3G connection: has a base speed of 2Mbps so 10MB would take approximately 41 seconds.
  • 4G connection: Has a base speed of 42Mbps so 10MB would take approximately 1 second.
  • 5G connection: Has a base speed of 1Gbps so 10MB would take less than a second.

As you can see in our calculations above, then loading a website with a page size of 8-10MB would take a very long time for 46% of the world’s population, and taking into consideration that the average user leaves a website after just 3 seconds, then lots of websites lose a big user group just from not using sustainable web designs.

You are losing money when you don’t use sustainable web design.

Any website that is not using sustainable methods to lower the total size of a website will lose visitors and money. This might not be something you are aware of, but keeping out 46% of the global mobile user base will hit your wallet in the long run in more than one way. First of all, you will filter out a large user group that won’t be able to load your website because it simply is too heavy, and second of all your hosting might become more expensive because of a higher amount of MBs or GBs being transferred per month between your hosting and the visitors.

If we take a look at the business side, then most companies spend lots of money on advertisements that supposedly will display them as number one on search engines such as Google. Companies might choose to do so if their organic SEO results aren’t bringing in enough traffic, but what many of them don’t know is that sustainable web design can actually help them get better placement on search engines completely free of charge. The sustainable methods will help to lower the overall size of a website and this will speed up the loading speeds and result in better organic rankings.

What is sustainable web design?

We have mentioned sustainable web design many times during this article, and if you don’t know the concept yet then we will give you a proper introduction.

Sustainable web design is when you use sustainable and green methods to build and maintain a website that has a lower environmental impact compared to a heavy and bloated website. Sustainable methods will not make the website “good” for the environment but it will make it a smaller polluter compared to some of the heavier examples we mentioned earlier and it will make it more accessible to people living in areas with low bandwidth/slow internet. So by using sustainable methods we can lower the environmental impact a website has, make the internet more sustainable, make information and our website more accessible to everyone on our planet, and save us money.

Underneath here you will find a list of things that sustainable web design is built upon. You can read more about each category on the Sustainable Web Manifesto‘s website.

  • Clean: Services provided and used will be powered by renewable energy.
  • Efficient: Products and services will use the least amount of energy and material resources possible.
  • Open: Products and services will be accessible, allow users to control their data, and enable the open exchange of information.
  • Honest: Products and services will not mislead or exploit users.
  • Regenerative: Products and services will support an economy that nourishes people and the planet.
  • Resilient: Products and services will function in times and places where users need them most.

Ways to optimize your website toward sustainability

There are many ways that you can optimize and make your website more sustainable, but here we have listed some of those that make a big impact. 

These are just some of the methods we can use to lower a website’s environmental impact, but making a sustainable website is not done by a few actions alone. We must change the way we create websites and continue to use these methods as we add and edit the content on our website.

Conclusion

In this article, we talked about why and how sustainable web design makes the internet more accessible to people with low bandwidth. We also pointed out why it is important both for you as a website owner and for the visitors to optimize the content through sustainable methods as it will load faster on slow connections and obtain a higher organic ranking on search consoles such as Google and Bing. By applying certain methods that won’t cost us more we can open up our content to a 46% bigger user base, we can make the internet more sustainable and environmentally friendly and we can save money while doing it.

Please share this article with your colleagues and friends to help spread awareness and please feel free to share your story or experience below in our comment section.

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Michael Andersen
Michael Andersen

Michael Andersen is the author of Sustainable Web Design In 20 Lessons and the co-founder of Sustainable WWW (World-wide-web), an organization teaching sustainable practices. With a passion for web design and the environment, Michael solves puzzles to make the internet more sustainable.

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