Eco-design: the new digital challenge

  • user
  •  03.08.2021
  •  5 MIN

According to the Gartner consultancy firm, IT is responsible for 2% of the planet's CO2 emissions and this figure is growing exponentially. The obesity (obesity of software), the increase in the amount of data processed daily and the ever-increasing number of data centres are perfect illustrations of the consequent increase in the environmental footprint of digital.

In 2017, Greenpeace denounced several digital services such as Netflix, Amazon Video and HBO for their poor performance in terms of environmental footprint.


What is web eco-design?

Web eco-design is a process that consists of reducing the environmental impact of a digital service throughout its life cycle (manufacturing, installation, distribution, use and end of life).


The aim is to design digital services that consume less energy and are more respectful of the environment while maintaining the service's performance and aesthetics.


We asked Thierry Leboucq, founder of the GREENSPECTOR platform, about this.

"In my opinion, the most important and the first step to eco-design a digital service is to question the interest of the service and its functionalities."


According to Thierry Leboucq, in order to eco-design, you have to ask yourself the question "is this functionality useful? He takes as an example the "map" functionality on a website with which you can find out how to get to the place indicated. If the answer is no, then you increase the consumption of your page. The best thing to do is to remove it.


The objective is to find the "right functional level", i.e. the ratio between the usefulness of the functionality and the environmental impact generated.


The advantages of eco-design

  • Speed. The more a site is loaded with content (images, videos, features, etc.) the heavier it is and therefore the slower it loads. An eco-designed site will improve your performance and at the same time your SEO score, because we know that Google loves a reduced loading time but also pages that do not cost too much to play on its servers when it wants to index the contents of the pages.
  • Responsive. Responsive and loading time have a big impact on your score and can make the difference between a good and bad user experience.
  • Clarity and readability. An eco-designed site provides a better user experience without unnecessary features and therefore a lower bounce rate.


What are the best practices to apply?

The first thing to do is to eliminate non-essential features.

According to Thierry Leboucq, "A large part of a site's features are never used by users, because they do not meet their needs.


Secondly, it is important to facilitate the user experience. The more time spent on a site, the larger its environmental footprint. By responding quickly to the user's request, the user will stay on the site less time and therefore reduce its footprint. The same is true for e-commerce sites: by avoiding an overly complex purchasing process, you also limit your environmental footprint.  


An important point: limit the use of auto-completion. Why should you do this? Because you need to limit the number of return trips to the servers to get proposals. For example, only start after 3 characters have been entered, and then every 3 or 5 characters before restarting a request.


To go further: The INR has published a reference framework of good eco-design practices.

To measure the digital sobriety of a website or an application, Greenspector offers on its website the App Scan solution to evaluate the performance of its digital service and its impact on the environment.


The Green Code Solution

Code, depending on how it is written, consumes different amounts of energy, but most of the time, code pollutes. So to make it cleaner and more environmentally friendly, there is a simple solution: Green Code. Its objective is to limit the use of resources of the digital service during its execution (the usage phase in its life cycle).


Here are some examples of actions that can be taken to make your code greener:

  • Disable some logs,
  • Reduce the size of scripts,
  • Caching content,
  • Set up asynchronous task processing as soon as possible in order to execute a task in the background,
  • Generate CSS spritesheets to reduce the number of HTTP requests,
  • Limit redirects,
  • and so on.


According to Thierry Leboucq, there is a real awareness of the consumption of digital services and their impact on the environment. The situation is changing and that's good news!

"If we want to save the planet, we must also take into account responsible digital technology."


On the training side, some schools such as ECV digital already offer their Web Development and UX Master's students a Green.IT "eco-design and responsible digital" certification with courses to prepare them.


ECV digital also offers OPQUAST certification, which covers certain "responsible" notions regarding good web accessibility practices. From next September onwards, green code and responsible design issues will play a more important role in the programmes of all its students.


More and more developers are getting into green code and eco-design. We are witnessing the emergence of a real market in this sector, which favours the development of these types of initiatives. Responsible digital technology is booming and deserves greater visibility!

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