Towards a Sustainable Internet

The speed of light websites

The less people wait, the more they engage. And because of their inherent lightness and therefore speed, low-carbon websites convert best by default.

Published

When you wait in line at a store, the longer you wait the more likely that you will leave. This is even worst online. Conversion rate, the percentage of visitors who complete an action after visiting a webpage, is one of the most significant metrics for evaluating a website's performance. It’s very well documented that speed results in higher conversion rates.

Load fast or die, a horror story.

The day has come where delays in mobile speed result in a stress response similar to that of watching a horror movie or solving a math problem. In short: we hate waiting, it’s stressful, and like all things stressful: we avoid them at all costs.

  • The BBC lost 10% of users for every second it took their site to load. Considering that it’s the world most visited news site, that’s a lot of people leaving!
  • In 2017, Pinterest reduced their load time by 40% resulting in 15% more signups, as well as a much better experience for users in countries with an older and slower internet infrastructure. Because of this experiment, their engineering team focuses on performance as one of the biggest opportunities for new user growth
  • In 2020, Ebay focussed on every 100ms of load time and saw that reductions in this unit of time affected their conversion rate

These are numbers amongst many, all proving one simple thing: speed makes a website perform better.

Lower and lower (yes, faster and faster).

A survey conducted on 750 everyday people found that half of them would give up animation and video for quicker load times. Low carbon websites are simpler and clearer, without distracting features, and this is done through design (and minimising heavy media) to ensure fast loading by reducing the page weight.

But that's not all. We can go lower (and lower).

Optimisation - the most expensive component in data consumption is media, like videos and images. There are great compression tools and modern image formats available that have the potential to reduce data considerably, however this fundamental step is often neglected.

Cache - page caching is a common approach to reduce load delays because it reduce computational work on the server side before delivering the content to users. To picture it, imagine resolving a complex mathematical calculation one time, store the result, and deliver that result to each person asking for it instead of doing the calculation every time some ask.

Less (or no) trackers - with the example of USA Today (link to article carbon footprint of Internet) removing its tracker for the European market (and subsequently reducing its size by 10), it's obvious that trackers are the dead weight of web. They’re heavy and don’t give a damn about privacy. We use alternative web analytic tools which provide great insights, less data, more privacy and aren’t linked to Big Tech (yay!)

Only benefits.

On top of helping conversion rates, low-carbon design can help with:

Bounce rate - there are different reasons for high bounce rates, but they predominantly result from slow load time, no call to action, clutter, a non-mobile friendly site or too many options offered.

Best SEO practices - websites that load quickly are more likely to rank higher in search engine results. Site performance, in particular on mobile, is significant for SEO. Search engines will prioritise providing useful information to users as quickly as possible.

Better user experience - users are less likely to stick around if their engagement is hampered by long page load times and slow response times. Users will become irritated if they have to wait, forcing them off the site entirely.

Less than a second.

At Hey Low we’re designing and building low-carbon websites we are happy to share that, on average, our websites are loading in less than a second.

Here is the result from of several loading time tests made with Pingdom, one of the main Website Speed Test tool available. (All websites where requested from London, UK)

letsgothisway.com 0.464s

sathyamproject.org 0.502s

somethingmorenear.com 0.472s

actionguide.localfutures.org 1.63s

heylow.world 0.411s

Average loading time : 0,7s.

A blink of an eye. Literally.