January 21, 2020 Sustainable Web Design

Kazuhito Kidachi
Corporate Director (CTO)

Over the past year, news about climate change has increasingly gained attention worldwide. Furthermore, Greta Thunberg, a Swedish environmental activist, was named TIME's Person of the Year 2019.

In connection with the ongoing serious forest fires in Australia, studies have shown that there is a correlation between climate change and the weather that causes wildfires. Regarding Japan, a recent memory are last year's typhoons 15 and 19 which caused a great amount of damage and destruction. Related to this, there are theories that global warming will generate more intense, powerful typhoons.

Against the threats posed by climate change, the world is not sitting idle. The 17 goals of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were introduced in 2016, include the goal of “taking urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”.

While the above forms a fairly long introduction, our main area of business, the development and operation of websites, is not, or at least should not, be irrelevant to this theme. And while it may be difficult to be conscious of daily, communication through the web consumes a considerable amount of power. Individuals may consider their online energy consumption insignificant, however, when aggregated, the total is quite considerable.

It is for this reason that I'm discussing the concept of sustainable web design in our Web Design Trends 2020 seminar (we are currently recruiting participants for our third holding of the event on April 15; please note the link destination as well as seminar are in Japanese).

This concept is not novel, and seven years ago, in 2013, an article titled “Sustainable Web Design” itself was published in the online magazine A List Apart (ALA). Similarly, back in 2010 an article titled “Making The Web A Better Place: Guidelines For “Green” Web Design” was published in Smashing Magazine - along with ALA, a publication that is popular with English-speaking web designers/web developers.

So, what exactly is sustainable web design? Well according to the website 'What is Sustainable Web Design?' launched in 2016 by Mightybytes, a digital agency run by Tim Frick who also wrote the book 'Designing for Sustainability: A Guide to Building Greener Digital Products and Services', the following four points are listed as the main requirements.

Easy to find content, fewer pages to get to the content you want
Display Performance
Fast web page display
Design for user experience
Effective and accessible design for a great experience on any device
Green Hosting
Use of hosting companies that use renewable energy or contribute to environmental initiatives

If the focus is solely on reducing power usage, we might imagine a text-only design that doesn't utilize video content or animations and doesn't even contain images. However, this isn't necessarily correct. The way I understand the above approach is meeting both business and user needs through more efficient web communication, and thereby lowering energy consumption.

Unfortunately, sustainable web design is not currently attracting attention in the industry or society at large. Because of the high level of abstraction, there seems to be no lively discussion. If viewing the W3C's Sustainable Web Design Community Group, visitors will surely have the impression that it's a rather desolate place.

However, against the backdrop of the natural disasters mentioned in the introduction, various activities for the promotion and creation of a sustainable society are accelerating. Therefore, I believe it's important to have new perspectives on sustainable web design - and I expect its importance to increase towards the SDGs' 2030 deadline and, perhaps, beyond.

Furthermore, many of the requirements for sustainable web design, introduced above, are areas that have been a focus and resulting strength of our company for many years now. In other words, the realization of sustainable web design is a culmination of our efforts to improve the quality of our products. As noted on our SDG Initiatives page, this is the reason why we are striving to provide sustainable web design as an “Approach to Goal 12 and Goal 13.”

We look forward to receiving inquiries as well as consulting with companies (especially those working on SDGs) who are eager to realize a more sustainable society.

For more information on our services, timeframes and estimates, as well as examples of our work, please feel free to be in touch.