1st Nov 2021
COP26 is officially underway. Now is the time that we want to see world leaders make real commitments to reducing carbon emissions. Amongst other means, two proposed measures to achieve this are to accelerate the phase-out of coal and encourage investment in renewables.
There will need to be some bold pledges from those in power, and waiting for them to take action can leave us feeling a little powerless. However, as we know, every change can make a difference.
In our world of web design and website hosting, we know of a few ways that small changes to our online activities can collectively have a big, positive impact.
Here’s what we all can do:
Why should we do these things?
Despite the internet appearing to be an intangible thing, it is very much made up of physical resources and consumes huge amounts of energy, 24 hours a day. Read more about this in our previous articles...
17th Sep 2021
Those who know us know that we are always looking for ways to make more positive changes to the services we provide and the way we do business. This runs from the suppliers we choose to the way we support our clients.
More recently we have been looking at how we market our services and how we can ensure that we aren't partaking in unethical practices. This is where the Ethical Move Comes in.
The Ethical Move aims to change the way that businesses sell and customers consume, to break the cycle of consumerism. Some businesses use tactics to convice customers to buy things they don't really need and that isn't doing anyone any good, least of all the planet.
So The Ethical Move have created a pledge for businesses to take and we have taken it too. We haven't needed to make any adjustments to our marketing practices as these are things we already do but it is great to have them in writing and to 'wear' our The Ethical Move badge!
1) Charm pricing
We pledge to continue to use round numbers and not 'charm prices'.
We pledge to not use countdown timers to drive a sale.
3) False scarcity
We pledge to be honest about availability.
4) Lead magnets
We pledge to be transparent in our email list building.
5) Bait and switch
We pledge to deliver the value we promise pitch-conscious.
6) Woke washing
We pledge to not use social issues to leverage our marketing.
7) Secret recipe
We pledge to not make false promises in our sales and marketing.
Like any development and progression in business we anticipate that there will be more ways that we can improve over time. This pledge isn't the end and it isn't set in stone.
19th Feb 2021
Social media is pretty much a standard part of most businesses’ online marketing by now but users’ experience of it is far from standardised. This could be due to the content itself, how it's posted, or both. For people who have disabilities it may be difficult to access social media in many ways, which at best could be frustrating and at worst be a complete barrier.
With some forward planning and a few adjustments to the way we prepare and post, we could be providing a whole different and much more inclusive experience to many users.
This is a whistle-stop tour to highlight the different aspects of our social media posts we could (should) be making more accessible and inclusive. I'll say right now that we are learning too and will be implementing these things in our posts going forward.
At the end of this article I've added links to some really great guides and deeper information by the experts in this subject. There's a video from AbilityNet, which is very much worth a watch too.
Images are a big deal in our social media, especially in Instagram where it’s all about that engaging picture. For visitors who cannot see images, a useful and concise description is needed in the form of ‘Alt Text’.
Facebook creates automatically generated alt text, which you will need to check and edit, for Instagram and Twitter you can add alt text:
Editing alt text in Facebook
Adding alt text in Twitter
Adding alt text in Instagram
In some instances, alt text may not be sufficient to describe your image, especially if your image includes text (more about that below). In these situations you could add an image description into your post text or link through to the full information on your website.
For podcasts or audio-only content, a transcript should be included. If this isn’t possible within the post itself then you could provide a link to the full transcript wherever it is available online.
Subtitles vs Captions?
Subtitles covey only the dialogue in the video and captions convey all of the essential audio (e.g. sound effects, music etc as well as dialogue). So you need to decide which will be most useful for the video you’re publishing.
An audio description is useful for videos where visual content conveys meaning or information. However, you may be able to plan your video in advance so they’re not needed.
The W3C provide clarification on audio descriptions, when to use them and how to add them
Custom fonts, which aren't included as standard on the social media platform can be difficult to read, due to the letter forms. Additionally, on social media custom fonts are are ignored by text readers and assistive technology. Using the fonts as provided means a better user experience and reduces the risk of your content not being read at all.
Text in images
If possible it's always best to avoid using text in images at all. However, it is a great way to make an impact, especially on Instagram. When using text in images, it is important to use a legible font that won't become illegible when zoomed to a much larger size. Also choose a simple or sans-serif font, where individual characters are easily distinguished. And importantly, ensure that the font colour and background colour contrast well so that the text is clear and strong. WebAim provide a very useful colour contrast checker which helps you easily choose highly contrasting colour combinations.
We can get a little carried away with hashtags sometimes, trying to hit as many key tags as possible. However, we need to take care about how we use them. Camel caps not only make hashtags much more legible but also allows text readers to distinguish individual words within the tag. To demonstrate camel case vs non-camel case, see the following:
Disability Rights Fund also advise putting hashtags in comments, separate from the post text. However others suggest hashtags within the post are OK if used in context within the sentence.
How we love an emoji to bring personality to our posts! However, for some people emojis can make the caption too ‘busy’ and difficult to read. They can also problems for those using text readers if used excessively and in the middle of sentences. This is because the text readers announce the name of the emoji and as you can imagine may make a post seem nonsensical. AbilityNet provide a brilliant example of this in their example video of emojis being read aloud (at 11:33).
This is a huge topic in itself and not as clear cut as making technical adjustments. However, two important things to be aware of are:
Here are some very useful resources which provide much more detail:
WebAim - People with Disabilities on the Web
Ability Net - How to Do Accessible Social Media (webinar and Q&As)
UK Government Communication Service - Planning, creating and publishing accessible social media campaigns
Disability Rights Fund - Creating Accessible Social Media for Those With DeafBlindness
Hootsuite - Inclusive Design for Social Media
Emojipedia - See all of the different names of emojis
Self-Defined - A dictionary of words which may be not be inclusive
Stroke Association - Accessible Information Guidelines (Making information accessible for people with aphasia)
30th Oct 2020
Website owners and content creators are becoming more aware of the environmental impact of our digital lives. But what about the social impact? It’s not always about what you’re saying online that has implications, how you say it matters too. The reason for this is because not all web users have the same access to online information and resources. Low connection speeds, limited data allowances and disability can mean that some people are excluded from certain content. It is important to know if your content is helping or hindering.
Slow-loading websites which have not been optimised for efficiency and contain unnecessarily large photos, videos and files can cause problems for website visitors with low connection speeds and limited data. Working through all of those heavy web pages uses up data allowances and some visitors may run out of time or resources before they reach what they really need.
Accessibility and inclusion online are vital for disabled people. Some websites and website content can cause real problems for disabled website users and the assistive technology they might employ whilst online. It is now a legal requirement in the UK for public sector websites to be built and managed in a way that is accessible for disabled users. We have been building websites this way for many years (because why wait for the law to tell you not to discriminate?) and much of what is involved is technical. However, there are ways to manage and publish your website content that makes sure it is accessible to disabled people.
Be mindful of the things we post online. Take some time to learn about what it means to optimise your website and what makes it accessible or inaccessible to disabled people. There may be things that only your web designer can address but there are certainly ways in which you can manage other aspects, especially your content:
These are just a few examples of things all content creators, publishers and managers can do to support digital inclusion. Optimising a photograph may seem like a small thing to do, but like all actions of individuals, collectively they can make a huge difference. The best thing about these changes is that not only do they have social benefits but they have environmental ones too and they improve your SEO! Search engines much prefer quicker, well optimised, well structured websites. It’s a win-win situation all round.
There are wider and more complex details in the design and development of websites but these are for your web designer to address.
Below are some useful resources if you’d like to read up on these topics further:
8th Jan 2020
Awareness of sustainable lifestyle choices has thankfully now become part of the mainstream. We are extremely conscious of plastic pollution, unsustainable palm oil, switching to meat free meals and buying from zero waste shops. We take a lot of time to think about how choices and actions in our physical lives affect the planet and life upon it.
But what about our online lives? How often do we hear conversations or read articles in the mainstream about the pollution and waste created by the Internet? Not that often I would say. When I talk to people about the negative environmental effect the Internet has, they are often initially surprised that they haven’t considered this before. Consuming and posting content online is such a big part of our every day lives, how have we omitted to think of the power and resources needed to maintain it?
Probably because to us it’s invisible and intangible. It just works. We don’t see the energy required to power, maintain and cool the servers that store, process and deliver every single item of content that is posted online, or the 8 million global datacentres that house those servers.
Currently there are over 4 billion of us using the internet and according to We Are Social & Hootsuite there are on average more than a million new users coming online every day. Our internet use is consuming 3% of the world’s electricity supply and in 2015 totalled more than the whole of the UK’s consumption that year. This is continually growing at an extremely fast rate and experts predict that by 2030 the energy supply in Japan will be completely consumed by data centres.
That massive energy use doesn’t come without an environmental cost. Most data centres are powered by fossil fuel energy sources which means that the global carbon emissions of the world’s data centres now equal that of the aviation industry. The Shift Project also tell us that video watching alone (the hungriest of all online media) generated the equivalent greenhouse gas emissions as that produced by the whole of Spain in 2018.
In a world where we are trying hard to reduce our environmental impact in most areas our online lives seem to be going in the opposite direction.
According to Greenpeace there is much work to be done but there are some positives too. Since 2010 when they began documenting and reporting the demand for energy and resulting pollution caused by data centres some major internet companies have expressed their commitment to moving to 100% renewables. This has had the knock-on effect of utility companies in the US switching to renewables to meet customer demands and attract new investors.
So, how about your own website? You can make sure that is powered by renewable energy too by using Green Hosting. Switching to a hosting company that powers its servers and data centres with renewables means you are not only helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by our online lives but you are also telling utility and data centre companies that Internet users want more clean energy. This is a great way to exercise your consumer power!
Our green website hosting is powered 100% by renewable energy, all year round. The Centro data centre, which houses our hosting servers, runs entirely on wind generated electricity from UK on-shore and off-shore wind farms. Because the energy is supplied via the grid, the power does not stop if the wind isn’t blowing, nor does it need to fall back on fossil fuels. It remains as reliable as ever and as green as always.
Centro data centre isn’t wasteful with that green energy either and has in fact achieved a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of 1.2, which is a very high efficiency rating. This is because it has been designed and built to use electricity as efficiently as possible. By extracting hot air from the building and using naturally cold outside air through the water-based chillers, the cooling systems do not need to be constantly at full power as they would in traditional data centres.
Our Green Hosting service provides all of the same, usual features you would expect from other hosting companies. So, if your website is hosted elsewhere we can help you switch to Green Hosting with minimal disruption.
“I'm really impressed with the service I received from Green Hosting. I was nervous about moving my site over in case anything got lost or broken but they guided me through the whole process, answered all my questions in plain English and kept me updated at every stage. They handled the whole switch over for me and it went smoothly. Not only have they made my site more sustainable but it's actually much faster now too!”
You can find out more about our Green Hosting service and see more lovely client comments at green-hosting.co.uk
What else can we do to make our online lives more sustainable?
There are other ways we can live more sustainably online, both via our own websites and elsewhere. We wrote an article about this for Zero Waste Week 2019, so do check it out.
There are lots of useful resources on this topic, some of which I used to gather the figures on internet use, data consumption and carbon emissions shown above. If you’d like to delve deeper here are the links:
We Are Social – Digital 2019: Global Internet Use Accelerates
Data Center Knowledge - The Data Center Dilemma: Is Our Data Destroying the Environment?
Information Age - A perfect storm: the environmental impact of data centres
Impakter - Hungry for Data, Starving the World
The Shift Project – The Unsustainable Use of Online Video
Greenpeace – Click Clean Report
Greenpeace – Clicking Clean Virginia