Let’s green our web : part 2

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Last week I read a Twitter thread from Gerry McGovern. He’s a bit of a guru in designing digital experiences and is also passionate about the impact that ‘digital’ is having on the environment.


‘Organisation with 100 million visits a year finds that 5% of its content is getting over 80% of visits. Over 100,000 pages have not been reviewed in 10 years.
We produce content. We do not manage it. 90% of content is crap. It was like this 25 years ago. It’s still the same.’

The tweet from Gerry McGovern says that content on websites is not actively managed and in many cases not reviewed for years

It made me think about the Scottish Enterprise website and whether we saw the same statistics. So, I asked our product owner David what our customers were looking at.

What we found

It’s slightly arbitrary how you slice up the data, but we looked at the year from 24 Aug 2020 to 23 Aug 2021.
• Our main brand website had 753 pages
• Those pages had 902,432 page views
No surprise that funding, support and grants featured right at the top. Yes, we’ve been through Covid so you may expect it, but to be fair they have always been top of the pile.

The top 8 pages from the Scottish Enterprise website make up half of all page views. The top result has 150,000 page views and the 8th most popular page has 16,628 views

Google Analytics data on those pages for this same period showed that:
• Half of all page views come from 8 web pages – that’s 1.06% of all available pages
• 80% of all page views came from 47 web pages – that’s 6.24% of all available pages
• There were no pages with zero page views but a huge tail of single views
A caveat of course is that we do host links to events, which would naturally have a lower volume of views. Also, some things will only be up for a limited period, so by their nature will have very few page views.

The 42nd most popular page has 3,491 page views and the 50th most popular page has 2,407 views

But by and large what we see is pretty much the same as Gerry’s figure. Only 6% of the content on the Scottish Enterprise website drives 80% of our traffic.

Why should we care?

1.65g of CO2 is produced every time someone visits a web page on the Scottish Enterprise website. So 902,432 page views equals 1.45 tonnes of CO2. That’s about the same as someone driving 9000km in a diesel car for a year.
OK, maybe not much in the grand scheme of things. But every little bit counts. Of course, Microsoft say that our cloud storage CO2 is offset. However, our product owner David made a really valid point. “Really in a climate crisis shouldn’t we be doing all we can to lower any CO2 generated however we can? “

What can we all do?

As a digital team we are already doing a few things, but there are some things everyone can help with.

Accelerating our new design system

The number one priority has to be to accelerate the implementation of our new SE design system. This is our core approach to how we build our websites and deliver transactional services online and will massively reduce our carbon footprint.   

Asking ourselves if we really need a website

In 2021 there are many ways to reach our customers and stakeholders. A proliferation of websites and content is not always the answer.

Creating content our users need

If we do feel we need website content then we should not ‘vanity publish’. We must understand the true purpose of what we are looking to say.

Writing for the web

We have a team of content designers who write specifically for the web. It’s a skill. They can take ‘internal speak’ and make it shorter, concise and in plain English. Every word counts.

Keep iterating

Our websites are constantly changing. Analytics will show if people are engaging with the content. If the answer is no it can be changed quickly or removed.   

Thinking like our customers

We all skim things on the web, right? So, everyone needs to think like that when considering content. Looking at analytics people want to get to where they need to be quickly.

Green procurement

When we are buying anything ‘digital’ we should really start to look at CO2 as part of a procurement decision.

As an organization Scottish Enterprise is focused, rightly so, on COP26 and for everyone to be thinking about CO2 generated through the more obvious areas such as travel. Digital waste though is also a huge contributor. The good news here is with a bit of awareness everyone can absolutely have an impact.

Focusing on making a website more carbon friendly can often bring out additional benefits. Lower running costs, improved load times and performance which all then provide a better user experience.

But ultimately yes, it’s about saving the planet #LetsGreenTheWeb

Find out more

This is a follow on to the excellent blog by Louise from February this year.

You can also read more about the Let’s green the web campaign. 

All credit to David O’Brien, service designer currently moonlighting as a product owner, who did all the analytics and thinking, I just wrote it up.

One Reply to “Let’s green our web : part 2”

  1. Some great food for thought in here. I like the challenge: do we really need a website? And the idea that we are really clear on why we are doing things and holding ourselves to account if we are not achieving those results.

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