Sustainable content creation tips
In the third of a series of 3 articles, Katie Parry from digital agency and arts sector specialists, Supercool, gives practical tips to reduce your website's energy consumption. Here she digs deep into sustainable content creation tips. This post is sponsored by Supercool.
This third and final post in our How to Create a Sustainable Website series focuses on content. It includes a handful of practical content considerations to help keep your website energy efficient.
A swift user journey is not just good for conversions, it's good for the environment too. It's a little counter-intuitive but the less time people spend on your website, the less energy is being used to power it. So, you want people to find your content, understand it, and then take an action ('Read more', 'Buy tickets', 'Donate' etc.) – quickly. Another consideration is file size and the sheer amount of content. The bigger the files, and the more content there is, the more processing power's needed to make your website work.
So, you're looking to make your content easy to find, pared-down, and quick to consume and action. With that in mind, here're some practical considerations when creating content for your website:
Visual content such as images and video are biiiiiiiiig users of energy. They're also incredibly important for showcasing your work to audiences; so we're not suggesting a text-only website. The other articles in this series cover some of the ways your web agency can design and build your website to keep imagery and video as energy-efficient as possible:
- sustainable web design tips
- sustainable website and coding tips
But you can play your part too:
- Ask yourself what purpose each image serves. Does it add something for the user – perhaps giving them something recognisable like a show image, or helping them to understand what to expect? If there's no clear purpose, perhaps you don't need an image on this particular page?
- Consider limiting the number of images used on each page. 'Less is more' comes into play here. Not only will your website use less energy, your message may even be clearer to your audience with a single strong and striking image.
- Could you use something other than a photographic image? Perhaps chat with your web agency about whether a more lightweight vector graphic or even CSS styling/animation could work just as well (or better 🤷) than a photographic image on certain pages or in certain sections of the site.
- Blur the background. The more detailed an image, the larger its filesize. So, adding even a slight blur to image backgrounds can make files sizes quite significantly smaller.
- Save for web! Upload the right size of image to your content management system, to keep the 'weight' of your image files to a minimum.
- Video is great and audiences love it; but do use it sparingly. In particular, try to limit auto-play video to a single page – likely your homepage – as it uses a considerable amount of energy.
Accessibility / Usability + SEO
Although not quite interchangable, the more accessible your website is, the more usable it's likely to be as well. Accessible content may also help to improve your website's search engine optimisation (SEO). How? Because well-structured content is easier to understand for machines, as well as us humans.
Good SEO matters because the quicker people find what they're looking for, the less energy's needed. Wins all round.
So, what can you do when creating content to keep it accessible, usable and SEO-friendly?
In large part it comes down to following some principles of good copywriting:
- Use the language your customers use. Using the words they might use as search terms – e.g. 'show' rather than 'production' – will make it easier to serve-up the right content in search results.
- Edit, edit, edit! (And edit again.) The quicker you can convey your message, the better – for your audience and for the environment. So, be ruthless and keep it short.
- Don't be tempted to write 'clever' headlines. Clear wording is far easier for people to understand – and for search engines to pick-up on too.
Another handy tip is to review the most frequently used search terms on your website. If lots of people search 'opening hours', consider making your opening hours clearer on the website. That way, people can find it without using the processing power of the search function.
These additional Supercool resources might be helpful for refining website copy:
Calls To Action
All content should serve a purpose, and guide users towards taking a specific action, so:
- Make end-goals easy for users to find and to understand. E.g. buying a ticket might involve clicking a large button that says 'Buy tickets'.
- Keep calls to action focused on your target audience. Is what you're saying useful, and relevant, to them?
We've written in more detail about how to create engaging, effective calls to action – including some nice examples.
Content Strategy + Planning
Last – but certainly not least – is to have a well-honed process, and a well-considered content strategy and plan for the future.
- Keep your content creation process efficient.
- Consider the format of your content. Can it be made in a way that allows it to be used across different platforms (e.g. your website, email, and social)?
- Follow good housekeeping principles in your CMS – remove unused assets e.g. images, logos etc.
- If your website is built using a modern CMS, you probably have lots of flexibility over the navigation. This is useful – and a little dangerous! Take care that any changes to navigation are minimal, and don't slow-down your users. (And avoid the trap of segmenting content in a way that makes sense to you or your organisation, rather than to your audience.)
- Can any of your content move from print to online-only? For example, we created a nifty online Annual Review template for New Adventures. The New Adventures team creates each new Annual Review in-house. Although use of video is quite energy intensive, the resources saved by not designing and printing physical copies every year means that, over time, this online version is more energy-efficient, more efficient in terms of the time taken to produce it, and more cost-effective.
Plan-in time for content reviews to:
- Update information that's become out-of-date
- Remove pages if they're rarely/never visited – as long as they're not required for legal purposes e.g Terms & Conditions
- Identify existing content that could be re-used or re-purposed – rather than creating something new from scratch.
For more about content strategy and planning, you may find this video helpful: Supercool Sessions #3 – Content Strategy with Georgina Brooke.
- Be sparing with images and video
- Write text concisely, and in Plain English
- Make calls to action easy to find – and to action
- Schedule time for content strategy, planning, creation, and reviews
Sources: Supercool's clever tech bods; sustainablewebdesign.org; culturehive.co.uk/resources/17-ways-to-make-your-website-more-energy-efficient; abookapart.com/products/sustainable-web-design
Katie Parry, Creative Director, Supercool
Note: This article may be updated over time and was first published on the Supercool blog.