Blog

How Ecograder Works: the Methodology Behind Your Website’s Sustainability Score

Posted by in Our Company, Software Development, Sustainability tagged with ,

Sustainable Web Design Series No. 17

Dig deeper into the methodology behind Ecograder’s scoring system, with tips on making basic changes to improve your website’s sustainability (and, bonus: efficiency!).

Green website design is one of precious few fields where “green” means exactly the same thing as “high performance” and “high efficiency.” Our latest product, Ecograder, is a simple, quick tool to measure site efficiency, performance and sustainability. Our goal is to arm web designers and site owners with data to start conversations about online sustainability efforts and create greener websites. Try it now, and then come back to this post to learn exactly what steps you can take to improve your website!

Your Ecograder Score is Divided into Four Sections:

  • Performance optimization
  • Findability
  • Design and user experience
  • Green hosting

We have identified areas within each section where website components can be improved for better efficiency and hence, less energy use. While the exact composition of the Ecograder algorithm is super secret, our methodology for measuring each factor is transparent.

Performance Optimization

Page speed, customer service and sustainability go hand in hand. Your customers expect to get the content they want instantaneously, or they will look elsewhere. Efficient pages load more quickly, which reduces your site’s bounce rate and keeps customers engaged. As an added bonus, the more efficiently your website runs, the less energy and processing power you use, which means that your site will have a lower carbon footprint. A triple threat!

screenshot of line graph

Heavy, man: the average number of objects on a webpage has increased significantly since 1995, leading to bloated, slow-loading websites.

Ecograder Performance Optimization

Ecograder currently measures performance optimization in three ways: running a site’s Google PageSpeed Insights score, measuring the number of HTTP requests the site makes, and assessing the site’s use of shared resources.

  • Google PageSpeed Insights: This score measures two things: how fast the “above the fold” page loads and how fast the whole page loads. The real value of the site is that it offers a list of suggestions for making your site faster! Learn more about Google PSI here.
  • HTTP Requests: In order to render a page in a browser, HTML code sends HTTP requests to the hosting server for page components like stylesheets, images, JavaScript, and so on. Each HTTP request takes a certain amount of energy to complete and time to load, so more requests means longer wait times for content and more energy wasted. Reducing HTTP requests can improve both site performance and energy efficiency.
  • Shared Local Resources: When you surf the web, many of the sites you visit pull resources from common frameworks. Enabling your browser to access any resources that are already cached—rather than re-downloading them—saves time, energy and bandwidth.

Findability

How easy is it for users to find your site? What about the content on it? The fewer pages a person needs to visit to reach their goal, the fewer resources need to be loaded. Reducing the number of pages loading—particularly if they have bandwidth-heavy assets like photos and videos—results in small energy savings that add up when multiplied across thousands of users.

illustration of stopwatch

Ecograder Findability

Ecograder Findability

Following SEO best practices and adding a search field to your site can go a long way in helping users find what they need fast. Ecograder uses MozRank to assess site findability.

MozRank: Moz offers a free set of tools that measure a variety of factors to calculate site findability. The higher the quality of incoming links in terms of domain/page authority and keywords, the higher your findability score. Your rank reflects the importance of your web page on the Internet. Learn more about MozRank’s methodology here.

Design and User Experience

A streamlined user experience is one in which site visitors can accomplish tasks quickly and intuitively no matter the device or platform they use to access content. Optimizing your site for mobile users is a key component to this. Consider that there are more than 3.6 billion unique mobile users on the planet and that one-third of all web pages are served to mobile phones. Designing experiences optimized for these users is critical.

Ecograder Design and UX

In order to provide top performance on any device, site designers streamline task flows, create clean layouts, and compress graphic or image assets for an optimized experience. As a result, these sites improve customer experience, boost site performance and reduce energy use—another triple threat!

Ecograder assesses two things that could affect user experience: mobile optimization and whether or not a site uses Flash.

  • Mobile optimization: For the purposes of scoring, we define mobile optimization in two ways: sites that have separate experiences for mobile devices and sites that are built with responsive or adaptive design. Both of these approaches result in more energy efficient sites because they both require streamlined content and design assets that can load quickly.
  • Use of Flash: Flash consumes more energy than standards-based equivalents and doesn’t work on most mobile devices. In fact, neither Apple nor Android operating systems support Flash anymore. So from both an energy efficiency and performance standpoint, Flash files are not the way to go.

Green Hosting

Green Hosting is the sole factor in the Ecograder score that doesn’t directly impact performance. But it is also one of the most important factors for having a sustainable website.

illustration of windmills and solar panels with a coal plant in the background

Ecograder Green Hosting

Ecograder Green Hosting

We score green hosting high in the Ecograder algorithm because the single biggest positive effect your website can have on the environment is to host it with a provider that runs on 100% renewable energy. After all, the servers that host your website require power 24 hours a day.

Green Hosting: Ecograder defines a green hosting provider as one that is 100% powered by renewable energy, including wind and solar. We do not currently include hosting providers that purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), although we are working on ways to validate hosting companies that use RECs.

We hand-built our green hosting provider database, and it’s always growing. If you think you have green hosting and it’s been left out, please submit an appeal on our hosting feedback form.

There are many ways to improve your site’s efficiency (and Ecograder score). Some of them can be done in an afternoon and some require more long term planning. We hope that Ecograder will give you a starting point to begin integrating online products with your company’s overall sustainability efforts.

Mightybytes is a Chicago-based digital agency and Certified B Corporation. Connect with us on Twitter or get in touch via our contact form.