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How Green Is Your Drupal Site? 17 Steps to Sustainable Web Development, Part 2

How Green Is Your Drupal Site? 17 Steps to Sustainable Web Development, Part 2

by Adrian Ababei on Nov 08 2017

We are a web development team of our word. And since we promised we would come back with some more best practices for a sustainable web development process... here we are!

In this post, as already revealed to you in “Part 1”, we will be highlighting:

 

  • all the “tweaking” you can do at a server level so that it should use less unnecessary energy (and reduce its overall CO2 output)
  • how to approach content on your site with sustainability in mind

     

Here we go:

 

Tips on Improving Your Server Performance: Consider Switching to a Green Host

If you're confident enough (or your team is) to get your hands dirty in server configuration and maintenance there are plenty of high-impact measures you could apply:

 

1. Use the BigPipe Module for Drupal 8

BigPipe has been and still is one of Drupal 8's biggest “innovations”.

It's nothing new, Facebook's been using this technique for a long time for improving page load times. Yet, now you have it in the form of a stand-alone module that you can leverage right on your Drupal 8 site!

And it would be a pity not to!

Just think about it: the BigPipe module practically segments each one of your web pages into multiple pagelets and streamlines the content loading process. It sends the cachable content segments first and the non-cachable, dynamic content last.

 

2. Make a Habit of Optimizing Your Database

Drupal “saves the day” (and the planet, too, when used properly) once again! It gives you the DB Maintenance module to enable, to leverage and to integrate with your sustainable web development workflow.

And this will prove to be a powerful tool to support your database optimizing endeavors: it runs MySQL's OPTIMIZE TABLE regularly using cron.

 

3. Get the Most of All The Caching Improvements in Drupal 8

If in Drupal 7 you still need to enable caching yourself (configuring your site's performance on the Admin page), in Drupal 8 page caching happens... naturally, by default (as well as assets aggregation).

And there's more! The caching enhancements made to Drupal 8 impact even pages “carrying” dynamic content.

And this is a big step forward towards top site performance and using energy responsibly if it's an interactive (and therefore with dynamically generated content) Drupal site that you own.

 

4. Move to HTTP/2

… and expect your web pages to load X times faster!

Be (still) one of the early adopters of HTTP/2! Why should you wait till it turns into a major trend? What you know for sure now is more than enough if you're truly determined to go further with your sustainable web development initiative:

 

  1. the vast majority of modern browsers do offer great support for HTTP/2
  2. it's proven that the HTTP/2 server push method makes a great “latency killer” by sending the requested data to the web browser BEFORE the later even “has the chance” to request it!

     

5. Move to a Green(er) Host

A website about to turn green calls for a... green hosting company, don't you agree?

So, it's time you get picky when it comes to choosing your host and to put the company you're already collaborating with to the... green test:

 

  • which is its policy towards sustainability and its contribution to creating a more sustainable web?
  • how committed is it to using energy responsibly?

     

If it does not live up to your standards of sustainability... consider migrating to a more “welcoming”, greener host!

 

6. Compress Your Cached Pages

And here you can choose the Drupal way or the Apache way of compressing your Drupal cached pages

Also, you could even step up when it comes to your commitment to a sustainable web development workflow. Supercharge your server by installing Varnish and enabling Drupal's own Varnish module, as well. 

This way, your server will be ideally equipped for caching, not to mention that Varnish is conveniently easy to configure!

 

7. Switch from a Data Center to a CDN Network

… and reduce, significantly, the energy used during content delivery to your users' devices.

Practically a CDN will locate the server (since we're talking about an entire network of servers put at your disposal) that's geographically closest to a given visitor on your website. Next, it will serve the requested content from THERE, much faster and using less energy. 

In short: 

 

  1. better content delivery times for your users
  2. a reduced energy consumption for moving data/content from your server to their devices.

     

Sustainable Web Development at a Content Level: Keep It Light, Make It “Findable” 

Once you've made your commitment to sustainable web development, optimizing your content:

 

  1. for SEO
  2. for a lighter on-page load
  3. for an improved user experience

... is a must.

And here are the 3 “fronts” you should be concentrating your efforts on:

 

1. Keep It Light, Keep It Short

We've already tackled the “irresponsibly heavy images'” issue. So we're not going to point out, once again, the tools and the techniques at your disposal for reducing your visual content's size.

What we do want to outline now is that you should keep your user interface efficiently simple

Don't make your visitors get tangled up in visuals, don't turn your UI into a maze for your visitors to solve. Keep it lean and shamelessly intuitive!

 

2. “Find-able” Should Be the Keyword to Describe Your Content 

The less time a visitor invests in tracking down the information he is looking for, the smaller his/her web use carbon footprint will be!

And how do you make your content easy to find? There are a few simple tricks:

 

  1. a well-thought-out navigation; apply all the best UX practices for a great search experience
  2. get the most of Drupal's core search
  3. enable the Apache Solr module (especially if it's a high trafficked site that you own) and integrate your green Drupal site with the popular search platform

     

3. Time to Archive Your “Last Season” Content 

All those out-of-date images, unused files, “dusty” written content that no one reads anymore still lingering on your website, all those videos dating centuries ago should... go. Should get archived!

Not only will you lighten the load your site needs to carry (and reduce energy waste) and take a burden off your server's shoulders, but this decluttering session will benefit your users too. Pages will load significantly fast! And overall maintenance costs will get lower.

Not to mention that pages will load fresh, quality content ONLY for search engines to index and your users to enjoy.

 

The END! This is our list of tips and tricks on how to implement the sustainable web development principles into your own website. 

As you can see, you're not being nickel and dimed in options when it comes to making your Drupal site (more) Earth-friendly! And they do range from basic, handy solutions that require no out-of-the-ordinary technical expertise, to a bit more complex ones.

So you have no excuses for not contributing, at a basic level at least, to building a more sustainable web!

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