Featured WordPress Publisher: Branch

Branch

Welcome to another post in our series that features innovative WordPress publishers.

Branch is a fascinating new publication that uses WordPress and is backed by Mozilla. Branch is an online magazine whose focus is making sure our technology helps build a sustainable world.

Their tech team has also done some fascinating work with their WordPress site. They are really pushing the boundaries when it comes to how “green” WordPress can be.


Background

Mozilla announced earlier this year that they were planning the launch of Branch. This move was partly a reaction to the pandemic. The internet already accounted for 2% of the world’s carbon emissions, and that number spiked much higher as many people started working from home.

The launch is supported by Mozilla, plus the European Institute of Innovation & Technology (EIT)’s Climate KIC.

You may notice that the URL for Branch is https://branch.climateaction.tech. We talked about ClimateAction.Tech in our interview with Hannah Smith: it's a vibrant community of people interested in both tech and sustainability. If you're keen to learn more, definitely sign up for their Slack channel.


The Content

Issue #1 of Branch is available now. Here are some of the stories in this first issue, to give you a flavor of the content:

Branch Cover Issue 1
Branch Cover Issue 1

Building a Green Website with WordPress

The technical side of Branch is interesting. It involved some of the leading WordPress developers in the UK including Tom Jarrett, Jack Lenox, and Chris Adams.

First, let's introduce the principles. This article has a good overview of the “GOLD” guidelines they used for the design:

  • Green: “We thought through the digital supply chain: from the site running on servers powered by green energy … to designing for the widest range of devices.”
  • Open: “We share the site’s source code on Github, and we also chose to use WordPress because we know that more than a quarter of the web runs on WordPress.”
  • Lean: “Even when we use green energy, there is still an unavoidable environmental impact to most digital activity … so we chose to tread lightly.”
  • Distributed: “We designed the website to be easy to cache and distribute across a content delivery network.”

Second, this article has fascinating details on the implementation details. For example, the logo gets greener to show when more renewable energy is being used to power the site:

Logos
Logos

The same thing is true for the whole website:

Branch Color Changes
Branch Color Changes

To be as low energy as possible, Branch uses a limited number of fonts and tries to utilize system fonts. This uses the smallest amount of Javascript possible, while still allowing WordPress to work.

The Branch theme is open source and hosted on Github.

This development work matters: WordPress runs 40% of the web and so it's incredibly important to make sure our platform is as sustainable as possible. Longer term, it would be wonderful if the lessons learned from projects like this were able to improve the WordPress core.



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