Images are an essential part of any website. They can help to make your site more visually appealing, break up long blocks of text, and convey important information. However, images can also slow down your website's load time, which can negatively impact user experience and search engine rankings. In this article, you’ll learn 10 ways to optimize images on your website to ensure that they look great and load quickly.
Why Should I Optimize Images?
Optimizing images on your website is important because it improves website speed, provides a better user experience, and can greatly improve your search engine rankings.
Improved Website Speed
One of the easiest ways to reduce the load time of your site is to optimize the images. Optimized images load faster, resulting in quicker page loading times, which both users and search engines appreciate.
Better User Experience
Faster loading images leads to a smoother browsing experience for your visitors, increasing engagement and boosting conversions.
Improved Search Performance
Sites that deliver responsive images– images automatically adjusted in size and resolution based on the device viewing the site–are sites that deliver a good mobile experience. Responsive sites tend to score higher on search results than static sites.
Choose the Right Format
Choosing the right image format is crucial for optimizing your images. Each format has its advantages and disadvantages, so choose the one that best fits your needs. Here are a few of the most popular image formats:
WebP is a newer image format developed by Google in 2010 specifically to improve page load speeds. It offers both lossy and lossless compression options, allowing for high-quality images at significantly smaller file sizes. In most cases, WebP is an excellent choice for optimizing images on your website. Browsers made before 2010 may not have WebP support, so you might require other image formats.
JPEG (also referred to as JPG) has been a commonly used image format for digital photography and websites for over three decades. Because it uses lossy compression to reduce file sizes, some image information is lost during compression. JPEG is great for photographs and complex images with many colors and gradients.
However, there may be better choices for images with sharp edges and text, as JPEG compression can introduce image artifacts. Despite its limitations, JPEG remains popular due to its efficient compression, widespread compatibility, and support.
JPEG 2000 or JP2 is a newer image format introduced in 2000 as an improvement on the original JPEG format. It uses a wavelet-based compression method that allows for both lossless and lossy compression. Featuring error resilience, progressive decoding, and improved image scaling, JP2 is best suited for images that require high image quality, such as medical images or high-definition geospatial imaging. However, despite its numerous technical advantages over JPEG, JP2 has limited browser support.
PNG, first released in 1996, is a popular image format. Known for its lossless compression and support of transparent backgrounds, PNG is an ideal image format for logos and icons as well as images with sharp edges and text. However, PNGs tend to have larger file sizes than other formats, so keep an eye on load times.
First introduced in 1987, GIF is a well-known image format that supports both static and animated images. Its limited color palette makes it suitable for small animations, simple graphics, and images with few colors. GIFs have become popular for creating short, looping animations, commonly used for memes or reaction images on social media platforms. However, because of its restricted color range, GIF is not an ideal format for photographs or high-quality images.
Keep Your File Size Reasonable
Shrinking image file size without compromising on image quality is crucial when you optimize images for faster load times. Having a tiny image file size that loads quickly isn't very helpful if site visitors are forced to struggle to view the content. Use an image optimization tool to help find that balance between image quality, size, and load speed. Managed hosting clients with Liquid Web can use the image optimizer package for WordPress.
Don’t Forget About the Resolution
Image resolution is an important factor when optimizing images for your website. Many web applications, like WordPress or Magento, will automatically create several different sizes of the images you upload, showing site visitors the best one based on which device they're using.
Always upload the largest size needed and scale down, not up. If upload an image of your product that is 150x150px, it might look great as a gallery thumbnail but will probably look fuzzy when scaled up to a 600x600px full product image.
Use Relevant File Names
Using descriptive and relevant file names is crucial for both SEO and accessibility. By choosing meaningful file names, you can improve search engine rankings, simplify site maintenance, and enhance the experience of visually impaired visitors to your website.
Optimize Your Alt Attributes
When you optimize images on your website, you should also consider optimizing the alt tags. Just as having relevant file names will increase SEO rankings and improve accessibility, so, too, will having appropriate alt tags. Make your alt tags descriptive, and search engines will thank you. Make your alt tags informative, and your visually impaired site visitors will love you.
Optimize Images With CSS
Image optimization means more than just reducing file size. To ensure your website is mobile-friendly and looks great on smaller screens, you can use CSS to reposition your images, scale them up or down, and apply effects.
<picture> <source type="image/webp" srcset="stainless-steel-french-press-coffee-maker.webp" /> <source type="image/jpeg" srcset="stainless-steel-french-press-coffee-maker.jpg" /> <img src="stainless-steel-french-press-coffee-maker.jpg" alt="Stainless Steel French Press Coffee Maker. A large stainless steel French press coffee maker with a sturdy handle and a lid, displayed at an angled view." /> </picture>
In the above image, there are three examples of images that have been optimized using alternate image source sets, relevant file names, descriptive alt tags, and responsive CSS. The images will automatically scale up or down as needed without image distortion or container overflow. Additionally, by using descriptive alt text for the image, those using screen readers can access the content of the image without having to rely on visual context. Using the techniques in this blog post will help improve website performance, user experience, and search engine rankings, ensuring that images are accessible and engaging for all users.
Optimizing for Responsive Design
As mentioned in the previous section, you can use CSS to optimize images. Taking it a step further, you can also provide flexible or responsive images, which are a crucial component of responsive design. The following example offers several image formats (WebP, PNG, and JPG), each available in multiple sizes to cater to different devices and screen resolutions:
<picture> <source type="image/webp" srcset=" silver-diamond-earrings-small.webp 480w, silver-diamond-earrings-medium.webp 720w, silver-diamond-earrings-large.webp 1080w " sizes="(max-width: 480px) 100vw, (max-width: 720px) 100vw, 100vw" /> <source type="image/png" srcset=" silver-diamond-earrings-small.png 480w, silver-diamond-earrings-medium.png 720w, silver-diamond-earrings-large.png 1080w " sizes="(max-width: 480px) 100vw, (max-width: 720px) 100vw, 100vw" /> <img src="silver-diamond-earrings.jpg" alt="Silver Diamond Earrings, close-up view. Close-up view of elegant silver diamond earrings with a round-cut design and intricate detailing" /> </picture>
Browsers that support WebP will respond by automatically choosing the WebP version, while those that do not will use PNG or the default JPG version. Faster-loading images can contribute to improved Core Web Vital scores, which will in turn boost search rankings.
Optimize Your Thumbnails
To optimize thumbnails, ensure they're resized to the appropriate dimensions and compressed to maintain a reasonable file size without sacrificing quality. You can use tools like TinyPNG or Kraken.io to compress thumbnail images.
Use Image Sitemaps
A sitemap is a document that outlines the structure of your website, providing key information about web pages, videos, and other files, as well as their relationships with one another. An image sitemap is still a sitemap, but it focuses specifically on providing information about the images on your website, such as their location, title, and caption, to help search engines understand and index them better. Since version 5.5, WordPress has a sitemap feature that makes the creation of sitemaps simple and painless.
Consider a CDN
A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a network of servers located in different parts of the world. By using a CDN, cached versions of your images are delivered to your site visitors from CDNs closest to them. By delivering content to your site visitors, you improve the loading speed of your images and, thus, your website as well as reducing the load on your server. If your audience is global, or if your site receives a lot of traffic, you can use a CDN to improve site performance.
Optimizing images on your website is crucial for improving website speed, enhancing user experience, and boosting search performance. You can significantly improve your site's overall performance by implementing the tips discussed in this post, such as choosing the right format, keeping file sizes reasonable, using alt attributes, and CDNs. So why wait? Start optimizing your images today and enjoy the benefits of a faster, more engaging, and SEO-friendly website!
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Michael Pruitt is a Support Systems Administrator for Nexcess. He brings over a decade of experience to his current role. When not working, Michael can be found officiating roller derby bouts.
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