The more you remove, the more you can remove

It seems that before most people put their tech hat on, they carefully take their brain out. For every one good tech idea, I see at least nine really stupid and unnecessary ones. But most organizations can’t resist more technology.

The new website I got built for has no database because it doesn’t need a database. Some sites definitely need a database. Many don’t but nearly all have one because who would refuse a “free” database.

Everything on my new site is stripped to the bare, functional essentials, from a backend perspective, yet it looks identical to the older site whose average page weight was 14 times heavier. The new site has no PHP because it doesn't need a server to execute the application and render the content because it’s a static website, not a database-driven one.

The new site has no analytics because analytics for most sites are a total waste of time. The amount of useless, brain-numbingly stupid and wasteful hours spent poring over Web analytics is horrifying. Yes, what you’re thinking in the back of your head is true. You’re as likely to get useful insight reading tea leaves as reading analytics reports. Why do we have to spend so much of our lives doing stupid, wholly unproductive things?

So, the new site has no tracking, so therefore no Google Analytics spyware. (Do you really enjoy being an unpaid spy for Google?) The old site, because it was on WordPress, had 6-10 cookies. Don’t know why. The new site has zero cookies. Zero. So no scripts to deliver stupid annoying messages such as: “We’d like to spy on you. Do you agree?”

The new site has no JavaScript because it does not require JavaScript-enabled stupidities such as spyware scripts. The more you take away, the more you can take away.

Images have the potential to add an awful lot of weight to webpages. I thought I had been focused on making sure that the images were as light as possible. However, by using a more energy efficient format like .webp we were able to reduce average image weight by almost 35%.

We stored fonts locally instead of doing what we did in the past, where each time a font was loaded it created a connection to the “free” Google fonts service. Another little bit of time and weight saved.

In Google Lighthouse, the old site got a mobile performance score of 54. Now it has a score of 100. The desktop version went from about 62 to 99. The new site loads on a mobile device in 1.3 seconds (used to be 5.2). On desktop, it loads in .4 of a second (used to be 1.1).

The total weight of the old site was 250 MB. The new site weighs 2.6 MB, which is a 99% reduction in size. A lot of this reduction in weight was me seriously reviewing the pages and deleting old and irrelevant ones.

There are about 1.8 billion websites out there. Just for speculative purposes let’s assume that on average those websites have a total weight of 250 MB, and that 99% of that weight is waste. Getting rid of this waste would save over three million tons of CO2 each year.

Waste data, waste code, waste content, has real consequences, is a real driver of global warming. We are in a climate crisis. Everything we do, no matter how small, to reduce CO2 emissions – it matters.

Podcast: World Wide Waste
Interviews with prominent thinkers outlining what can be done to make digital as sustainable as possible.
Listen to episodes