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Making Websites (More) Sustainable, Aurora Saseta

Aurora’s ingenuity shone through when we gave her a challenge: to create a sustainable website, while maintaining the AAV aesthetic.

Alicja Hagopian, Fall 2022
AI-generated image from prompt "a responsive interface for a sustainable website in a forest full of flowers".

Many visual elements of An Artist’s Vision, from the graphics to the website to the magazine layout itself, would not be possible without our graphic designer Aurora Saseta. Based in Valencia (Spain), Aurora is a front-end developer who has been working as a freelancer for two years while taking courses to hone her craft. For Aurora, “coding is creative, it’s trial and error and experimenting until things become logical”. She primarily enjoys working on projects for artists or cultural events, where she can take a creative approach to website design and play around with the aesthetic.

Where Aurora’s ingenuity has shone through most is when we gave her a difficult challenge: to create a sustainable website, while maintaining the AAV aesthetic. Aurora went above and beyond to research, test, and ponder what elements of web design consume the most energy – you can find the full list in our about page here. Ultimately Aurora had to find ways to do justice to the artists’ work featured in AAV, while sacrificing many elements which drain power on a typical website. She implemented features throughout the process to leave us with a website which is as ‘low-tech’ as possible. For example, you may notice that the colours throughout the website are in darker shades on black background wherever possible. According to a 2018 Google study, ‘dark mode’ can cut battery drainage on AMOLED devices by up to 63%.

The biggest problem Aurora found is that images are incredibly energy-consuming, both in terms of the power needed to download them and the brightness required to view them. However, we have a duty to display the beautiful photographs which illustrate the work of climate artists in AAV. In response to this challenge, Aurora has applied a texture to all the images which you can see on our homepage, to give them a much smaller size, which therefore consume minimal energy when the page is loaded. She then applies a signature AAV colour overlaid onto the image in a darker shade to keep in the theme of low-texture ‘dark mode’. All images on the homepage are kept in low resolution to avoid unnecessary energy consumption, but featured in high quality on the individual article pages out of respect to the artist.

Aurora has challenged herself to be resourceful right down to the code itself. Since any external files on a webpage require additional requests to the server, Aurora has written the code in plain JavaScript rather than using a library. This minimises the server requests and therefore reduces the energy used to load the page. For website analytics Aurora has chosen Cabin, an organisation whose servers are run on renewable electricity and is 22x smaller in size than Google Analytics (see more here). Aurora was inspired by the ‘low-tech’ philosophy and green web design, made possible by publicly-available resources like Low←Tech Magazine and the Thanks in Advance project by Anyways Creative. In the end, Aurora says “it was an interesting exercise for me personally in using low-tech and minimising resource use [..] making coding more efficient is useful for all different projects”.

Reducing the energy consumption of a website is essential no matter its size. Nowadays, even if website has very little visitors or content, it is standard for bots to attack webpages hundreds of times on a daily basis. Since bots typically access the main URL, Aurora made sure to simplify the content on the homepage, to avoid wasting energy when it is overloaded by bots. Nonetheless, with a simple piece of code Aurora was also able to program the homepage to change the colour scheme, according to the time of sunset and sunrise in London each day. These small but imaginative additions are what sets Aurora’s designs apart, blended in the most efficient and cohesive way possible. We need more thinkers like Aurora who take time to reimagine their craft, artfully blending creativity and technology. But coding is no longer reserved for tech-wizzes; you can learn online in a matter of months, with free beginners’ resources available all over the internet. Aurora’s advice? “I urge anyone I meet to just start programming, and see where it takes you”.