How do you call out sustainable organisations who have a site that does not match their aims?
Actually, let me be more specific.
How do you call them out without alienating people and seeming mean or snarky?
I visit a lot of sustainable business and organisation websites at the moment. I’m often shocked that the carbon footprint of that site hasn’t been considered. Sometimes it makes me quite angry and makes me want to take action. But how to take action?
My solution is this post. Without naming names I will discuss the sites and the problem as I see it. Then I will suggest how I would solve that problem. The aim is to show how to build sites with lower carbon footprints and better user experience (UX).
Here are a few examples I’ve spotted recently and how I’d change them:
The “auto play video as value statement”
I get the thinking. You’ve got a great product and you want to shout about it. What better way than a beautifully shot video proclaiming your brand values? What if people don’t watch it though? Best make it auto-play when the page loads.
This presents a couple of problems. One is that you rely on users watching the whole video to see the whole message. Another is the carbon cost of auto-playing videos, especially big, full screen ones. Videos will almost always be the largest element on a web page. They should be used carefully!
What I would do differently
I’d change a couple of things here. There is quite a lot of evidence that users ignore videos in hero banners. The term Banner Blindness was coined in 1998. It’s defined as when “users consciously or unconsciously ignore banner-like information”. Ask yourself how often you take in all the information “above the fold” when you load a page? Do you read it or start scrolling as soon as the page loads?
Think of your users
From a UX point of view I would prefer a bold value statement in the hero. Something that even the quickest of scrollers would take in. If the video has to stay, I would put it in the intro section. It would be next to a sub header & an impactful paragraph about your business.
Additionally I would give the user the option to watch it if they want. Don’t make it autoplay, it will hamper your page speed. An engaged site visitor who chooses to watch the video is more valuable than an enraged visitor waiting for the page to load.
Lower carbon footprint, quicker load times, better UX and message recognition.
The “simple” site built on an inefficient page builder
You are a organisation, bringing stakeholders together to do good for the planet. Your site is built to be simple and effective. It’s got big, easy to read text, a bold colour scheme and few obvious images. So why does it have a higher than necessary carbon footprint?
In this case it is to do with the platform chosen (Squarespace & WIX type options) to build the site and some UX choices. Site building technology tends to sacrifice efficiency for flexibility. Each time you load a page you are loading a lot of redundant options that you aren’t using on the page.
What I’d change.
The platform for a start. A simple site, should be a low carbon site. The choice of platform in this case doesn’t allow this to happen, which is a shame. The footprint of the site should match the message of the site.
There are also UX tweaks to make. The site has scrolling effects and content fades in when you navigate. The benefits of this effect are negligible and come with a code weight cost. A similar outcome could be achieved in a less code heavy way using css based scroll-snap.
More options for optimisation of the site. Quicker load times, better showcasing of the blog posts and improved UX.
Careful choices and better UX makes for a more sustainable site. The reverse is also true. Sustainable sites use best practice to improve UX and conversions.
The understanding of our digital carbon footprint is growing. Can businesses with sustainable aims afford to ignore this? Can they continue to have inefficient, energy hungry sites? I don’t think so.