Responsible web design is fun

In the record of the everyday environmental gestures everyone can perform to do their part for a hummingbird, emptying their mailbox and limiting the number of videos viewed online are now well-known processes. At the other end of the chain, designers of websites and internet services can also lighten the climate bill by changing some of their operating methods.

And for good reason, digital technology is responsible for 3.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, as the Agency for Environmental Transformation (Ademe) reminded us back in January 2022 to mark the launch of its Responsible Digital Awareness campaign.

And things will get worse: The carbon footprint is expected to double by 2025 according to the agency, due to “Significant increase in usage”. The number of connected devices as well as the services that provide access to them are responsible for 10% of electricity consumption in France, Ademe and the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications, Posts and Press Distribution (Arcep) assess. or 2.5% of the country’s carbon footprint.

For comparison, the waste sector represents 2 %. Half of the current footprint is due to data centers and the network. The rest depends on the peripherals, for example computers”Explains Pierre Bellevue, managing director of Datacampus, a French data center company. Reducing the digital weight of websites makes it possible to work on the energy consumption of storage spaces and the devices used to connect to them.

No legal restrictions

Several regulatory restrictions are applied to digital to make it more responsible, with the aim of protecting the data of its users or the accessibility of websites by all audiences. The Public Repository for Improvement of Accessibility (RGAA), for example, aims to facilitate mobility for people with disabilities in digital public services and some special services. Vincent Corboulay, Scientific Director of the Institute for Digital Responsible (INR) and teacher and researcher at the University of La Rochelle, identifies that a systematic framework for the environmental design of sites is under preparation within the French Standardization Agency (AVNOR).

The 2021 law introduces a general reference system for the eco-design of digital services and a commitment to training in this area for future engineers, which, however, is not accompanied by a penalty.

The legislator recently looked at the environmental side of the matter, with the adoption of a law in November 2021 related to reducing France’s digital footprint. It’s a first in Europe, even in the world, according to Senator L.R. Patrick Chaize, one of the parliamentarians behind it. The topics covered in this text are varied, going beyond the environmental design of websites. It does, however, offer a common system of reference for the digital services ecosystem and a commitment to training in this field for future engineers, which is not, however, punitive.

The parliamentarian stressed that in the absence of consensus on all points, “Intention” Instead of obligation, it has often been marked in law. For this, it relies on regulatory texts. It is actually for him “stay awake” go there “gradually”.

“This law has the advantage of putting the matter on the table,” Judge Vincent Corboulay who emphasized the interest in coaching. Among the levers that can still be activated according to him are the standardization of browsers and the power tag of websites, intended for the general public.

In 2019, INR launched a responsible digital charter at the request of the Ministry of Environmental Transformation. It has since been signed by more than 250 public authorities, societies and companies. What does the scientific director of INR say, ‘Internally raising the issue’ Signing companies.

For now, only advertising, adherence to the Charter’s values ​​will soon be subject to the signatories’ commitment rating. At the moment, it is mainly related to training procedures, purchasing policies and extending the life of the equipment. But Vincent Corboulay notes that responsible site developers are being approached by companies of all sizes, without specifying how many.

Finding compromises

The Insect Agency is one of the companies that develop such responsible websites. Starting with them, which you want to be extreme about: they are made on a black background, without any video and few text links. They emit 30% less greenhouse gas emissions than a typical site, notes Paul Guibert, associate director of the Bug Agency. Among its clients, “Convinced from the start of an eco-friendly business model” and the “Big companies understand that a topic must be approached without necessarily knowing how to approach it.”.

It indicates a very recent change in their approach, which can be explained by future organizational changes. Not all sites are the same as ours! ”, Determines. Often, it is not possible to see the responsible design: the activated cranes will be selected according to the needs and requirements of the sponsor. For example, a customer may want to keep a video on the home page to show their activity, while reducing the number of pages on their site for optimization. In fact, it is often a matter of searching for a file “The best compromise” Between efficient design and the economic benefit of the site in question, believes Benjamin Dotell, Secretary and Deputy Scientific Director of INR.

The latter regularly trains large companies on this topic: “They are all aware of the need for responsible digital technology, but they don’t know how to do it.” In particular, they are served by multiple hierarchical layers that give everyone the impression that there is no room for maneuver to operate. But the responsible digital is a file “browser approach”, If only to avoid cross-contamination between services, he also comments.

Original fonts and server cooling

The range of instruments that can be used is related, among other things, to the choice of colors that consume less energy and, therefore, emit less light. It is preferable to use original fonts, i.e. fonts that are installed by default in Internet browsers (Arial, Times New Roman, etc.) so that you do not have to download them when viewing the site. Ditto for “click here” for typing symbols: using glyphs, the equivalent of special characters in a word processor, avoids downloads and limits the number of requests, the same as the number of round trips between the machine displaying the site and the server hosting it.

Reflection in the user experience makes it possible to reduce the number of links, and therefore clicks, or even remove pages that may be useless

In general, the reflection on the user experience makes it possible to reduce the number of links, and, accordingly, clicks, or even remove potentially useless pages. Indeed, Paul Gibert summarizes, “All eco-design practices are modeled on good development practices”. Regarding the impact of these technologies, many schools exist to measure them. They can estimate the weight of the sites and services’ bandwidth, i.e. the number of requests and items in transit. Or rely on depreciation at the end of the device chain allowing their advice.

There is still another key point to reduce the impact of the site: the server it is hosted on. It is better not to overestimate the required storage space. Some data center operators are also working to reduce their impact. “The simplest thing is to cool down the 30 servers % to 40% of their consumption”, exposes Pierre Bellevue. Datacampus presents itself as the only company in the sector to have adopted the mission-critical company status. There are several alternative technologies for air conditioning for servers. For example, immerse them in a coolant bath.

From a sustainable development perspective, the environmental aspect does not seem to be the only aspect to be taken into consideration. Added to this are the social aspects, cyber security, and even the information that these services carry. “Within INR, we go beyond the issue of prosperity, i.e. creating values ​​and jobs”says Vincent Corboulay.

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