What is it?
Most of these positive practices are already present in some shape or form in development teams’ processes purely because they’re just more efficient and cost effective, which means sustainable development is a double whammy for both business and climate.
Energy is a resource just like money or time, and like any resource we care to keep around, it’s critical to spend it wisely. In layman’s terms, and busy people’s terms - every time we ask a user’s devices to send or receive a piece of information, it uses energy. Sometimes that’s very visible and obvious, other times it happens behind the scenes. Here are two examples of sustainable development practices that can be implemented behind the magicians curtain of 1’s and 0’s.
Be selective with tracking.
Our instincts are rarely wrong, and most of us feel a tugging sensation in our stomachs when we talk of tracking how a user's behaviour appears on TV or in our favourite podcasts, away from the focus of our own work worlds. That’s because it is indeed a murky and emerging moral landscape. Understanding other humans, what they need and how to give to them is noble, but is tracking data always used to that end? Of course not. That is an area of wide and exciting discussion, as the tech industry continues to navigate the ever expanding challenges of data privacy.
What is less murky however, is the quantifiable impact that the large scripts that enable analytics and tracking, have on our carbon budgets. Yes, it’s likely that it will usually be very helpful to track page views, bounce rates and other data that helps us to shave down our content to only the most effective parts. But your team almost certainly doesn’t need a dedicated heat map recording of every user’s session on every page of your site. Your team definitely does not need to be found to be breaching GDPR, or similar local laws by collecting more data than is legally sound. Not to mention how too many metrics can lead to confusing and inaccurate findings that don’t help anyone.
More data is not always more information, be discerning. Data is one tool that can be used to inform great usability, as is ensuring user’s are aware of what data you’re collecting and giving them the option to opt out of tracking completely. This can save you the embarrassment of being seen to be a distrustful entity, and keep your website speedy and satisfying.
New is out of vogue, vintage and used is in. This year ASOS have launched Thrift + a scheme that allows users to pack up and send back clothes they no longer wear to be re-sold by the brand, in return they receive credit to keep shopping.2 Recycling is now everywhere, because it needs to be as natural resources begin to dwindle. Businesses are racing to lead and conquer the new emerging circular economy.
Developers and designers don’t need to wait for Vogue’s approval; however, they’ve been recycling and sharing code since the dawn of pong.3 This is because code takes time to write, and to refine. One of the reasons that the internet, and technology in general, has been able to explode at the pace it has, is because of open-source code. In fact, Synopsis’ 2022, Open Source Security and Risk Analysis Report (OSSRA) found that 70% of code used to build the most popular sites on the internet is from open-source repositories.4 Meaning that others can pick it up, improve it, use it and make it available for the next person without fear of being accused of being uncool.
Help others to avoid reinventing the wheel, and wasting time. Make your code available online for others to use where you can. Share how you overcome tricky challenges. Internally, build a repository that is organised, easy to search and well understood, to save your team time and money by enabling them to repurpose code wherever possible.
It’s key to ensure that code is therefore written with reuse in mind. This means applying best practices knowing that you will see this work again, and what you don’t do now will need doing later. This includes ensuring code is efficient, appropriately minified and accessible. This is a great way to boost motivation to ensure best practice gets followed, and if done just right, can save your wider design teams from needing to repeat the same feedback. This leaves more time for creating new, delightful and impactful features that in turn can be added to the repository. Your projects can then better benefit from the wisdom of the projects before them.
Websites with less data and ad tracking scripts running in the background are faster, because there’s - well - less to load.
Why should I care?
Google’s report shows that 53% of mobile users will leave a site that doesn’t load in under three seconds.5 That’s a lot of lost leads.
An accessible and usable repository means that processes can move faster, new staff can see how work needs to be done straight away, organisations can price more competitively and you make time and space to experiment and delight.
When it comes to web development, what's good for the planet also happens to overlap quite significantly with what's good for users (and search engines) – a good rule of thumb is to only send data that a user needs, and send it in the most efficient way possible.
Calvin Davis, Head of Development
What can I do right now?
Ask your development team.
If you’re a developer, or work closely with a development team, ask them which practices they currently use to ensure that work is re-used.
Assess past projects.
When you next plan a project, assess what from past projects could be tweaked and re-used to save time.Here are some ways to make your code more re-usable
Start an internal repository.
If you don’t currently have a code or design repository internally, begin the conversation about the benefits of doing so, and how you or your team can help to get the ball rolling on starting one.
- Is GDPR Good for the Environment? / Mightybytes
- Thrift+ by Asos / Thrift+
- Pong / Britannica
- Open Source Security and Risk Analysis Report (OSSRA) / Synopsys
- Mobile Speed Matters / Google