John Paul Davis
CPU-sucking surveillance, unnecessarily-interruptive elements, and behaviours that nobody responsible for a website would themselves find appealing as a visitor.
Needless to say this struck a chord in me; I remember about 10 years ago being dumbfounded that not only would companies allow the scripts of other companies to collect information on their sites and about their customers (which they could, among other things, sell to competitors thanks to the data being "anonymized") but they'd pay for the privilege. You know how so much of the web is now terrible to use? Slow, irritating, like standing in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles while conspiracy theorists and snake oil salesmen yell at you? That's the bullshit web. Tracking pixels, webfonts, giant images and videos, modals that pop up insisting you create an account or turn off your ad-blocker or sign up for the newsletter before you’re allowed to access the website at all make up the bullshit web, and not surprisingly these are also the techniques and technologies that increase the page weight, and therefore the carbon footprint, of websites.
Being no lover of surveillance capitalism, or bad user experience, and being someone who is concerned about climate change, I became convinced that not only did I need to start advocating against the above techniques and technologies when devising solutions for clients, but I also needed to remake my personal site to reflect my ethics and politics.
My experience with making anything is that one does not always get ideal conditions when designing or building anything. For example, web developers all used to chafe at the restrictions with font availability for websites. We had to make do with a handful of clumsy fonts all devices had in common. Then came webfonts and we thought we were saved from that frustration but now, webfonts are often one of the heaviest resources loaded into a page. Webfonts were a much-needed improvement, repalcing hacky Flash or PHP implementations, but these days, at the same time devices include more fonts in common and better fonts, I've seen websites that load 2-3 megabytes of webfonts alone. So I have gone from being someone who once considered webfonts a godsend to considering them a perfect example of solving a problem with a bigger problem. Thankfully, now there is widespread support for loading and using a device’s system font in a webpage, and I have gone back to the common practice of the 1990s, and using only fonts available on a local machine. (For the curious: I make use of Jonathan Neal's system font CSS for the sans-serif fonts, and Athelas, with fallbacks to Constantia, then Georgia, for the serif font stack; as of 2020, Athelas is incluced most modern operating systems.) I've reached what I think is an elegant, typography-centric design for this site that doesn’t load any webfonts at all (unless you’re counting the custom font I use to display icons, which I am not, because it’s only technically a font by virtue of its file type, and that only weighs 2 kilobytes).
The result is what you are currently reading. Most pages on this site weigh under 50 kilobytes, unless the page is one that includes images (like the Music page) and in those cases, the server is optimizing all images to a pleasant, but not exacting quality, so that images are between 40 and 100 kilobytes. The Music page, which loads (right now) 6 album cover images, each around 50K, is far and away the heaviest page on the site, weighing in at 257K, which, by comparison, is one fifth the size of the Google homepage on a day when there’s no Google doodle.