Since the trends involving pretty much everything in our lives are moving towards being environmentally friendly and conserving our natural resources, I wondered if we could apply some of these green lessons to web design. Ask any project manager and they’ll tell you any web design, programming or application development project has a finite amount of resources behind it (unless, of course, you have an infinite amount of funds $). So I thought I could extend some green ideas towards either saving those resources, or at the least, using them more wisely.
Use Less Fossil Fuel: This is a simple one for any developer involved with your project. Work virtually from home more often and spend less gas.
Use Less Paper: Who even needs a printer anymore? I don’t even have one on my desk.
Hire Local Resources Only: Here’s a no-brainer for anyone who’s tried it before – don’t use offshore outsourcing! I can’t tell you how many clients come ask me to fix their development project after they’ve spent thousands on some developer in India or China. By using programmers and developers who work locally, you don’t have to worry about language problems or redundant development cycles. Let’s face it – there simply is no pride in ownership from application code coming out of these emerging economies. It’s bad, it’s buggy, and it just doesn’t work. Local developers are here to stand behind their code, so you benefit by getting a product which both they and you can be proud of and promote. Using local resources also stimulates your own local economy, which of course represents the very same people to which you are trying to sell or market your business!
Sustainable Resources: In terms of green construction, this usually means implementing a renewable energy source such as solar power to sustain your energy. By why not develop websites which can also self-sustain? By using a Content Management System, or CMS, there is no need to continually hire coders or developers to maintain and sustain your website. A CMS will allow you to update your own website content any time you want, on your own schedule.
Recycle: Unless you hire a developer who started working yesterday, every programmer has an arsenal of code which he or she re-uses. Any good ASP.NET or PHP programmer already has a good library of applications which they’ve worked on in the past. Ask your web developer for a discount on a recycled application; if they’re already programmed it before, there’s a very good chance they will extend a discount for re-using a pre-built application which simply has to be customized for your use.
Lifecycle Planning: If you build a green home, you have to make sure it’s not going to fall apart and contaminate the environment in 10 years, so you plan for the inevitable deconstruction of your home. Why not also build the marketing strategy of your website behind a long term goal? Many customers get together a few bucks $, hire a web designer, and put out a website. And then that’s it. There’s no promotion behind it, no SEO, no marketing. So they just sit and wait and inside of two years they have this horribly outdated and obsolete website which no one visits. By working with a web design and marketing team which know how to plan the lifecycle of your efforts, you can extend the life and productivity of your marketing plan – even the eventual deconstruction of it (i.e., re-design).
Innovation in Design: When building green, the LEED system applies points for innovative design. Why shouldn’t you expect the same from your website designer? So many cheap and offshore web developers today simply rip off a template-based design or just change the colors and re-use old websites to sell clients what they call a “new” web design. This is one case where recycling is not desirable – you should always demand a new, original and unique web design, especially if you are paying for a custom web design. Web developers should constantly be striving to innovate design for greater usability and effectiveness; you don’t want someone else’s stale old design.
Incentives: Building developers designing eco-friendly construction now receive up to a 20% bonus for achieving a certification level higher than that required. Why not extend the same incentive to your web design or marketing team? Merit-based pay has an awesome power to motivate. Offer your SEO professional a certain bonus rate if they meet and exceed your expectations. Offer your web marketer an incentive bonus if your site meets and exceeds x amount of $ in sales. By making an incentive partner out of your developer you foster and build a profitable relationship for both of you.
Positive Economic Impact: There are two ways to measure economic impact; direct and indirect. Obviously, whatever it is you are marketing on the internet, you want it to have a positive direct economic impact on you own wallet. Don’t budget $10,000 for a new massive web application to sell $100 sneakers, and then forget to budget for promotion and marketing. In the downstream, this is going to have a negative impact on your sales since you didn’t plan for the eventual marketing expense. And what about indirect impact? Techniques such as linkbaiting and viral marketing can yield amazing rewards, even though they employ indirect marketing techniques.
Social Impact: In green terms, this equates to culture and quality of life; contributing to a positive quality of life for current and future generations. But in the end, isn’t this exactly what you want your web presence to achieve? You want to make an economic AND a social impact. One of the best ways to drive traffic and sales to your website is to offer something of value to your public, preferably free. By improving their lives in some way, you generate a social buzz, and people begin talking about your service and emailing your URL to others. You don’t have to think about social impact just in terms of MySpace and Facebook; a good marketing team can assist you in dreaming up bigger and even better ways to impact online social networking to promote your business.
Just in case you’re wondering where I got these green building guidelines from, they came from either the Federal Green Construction Guide for Specifiers or The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System.