Visual content is the key to bringing your website to life. Without images or videos, your page will look dull and it will be harder to convey your message or inspire interest in your visitors. Attractive and highly performant images can improve the viewing experience of your website and contribute to customer conversion rates. Images are also useful for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes and can help you ensure that your website is seen.
However, user experience using the wrong images can have a negative impact on website performance, either slowing down your page load speed or not displaying properly on the user’s browser or mobile device. For this reason, it is important to optimize your visual content for the web. Read on to learn about five ways you can achieve image and video optimization.
#1. Compress Your Files
Perhaps the most critical technique for image and video optimization is compression. There are a number of methods used but they all have the same goal: to reduce the image file size or video file to speed up website load time.
Compression can be either “lossy” or “lossless”, depending on the file format you use. The former eliminates some of the pixel data, while the other compresses it. You can use an image optimization tool to automatically compress images for you, thus making your image management task much easier.
Compression is even more crucial for videos, which contain numerous images and are thus much larger files. You can insert a line of code to automatically compress video size on your website.
If you’re looking for more free image compression tools, check out the list of tools we put together to help you optimize the images before you upload to your website.
#2. Cut Out Unnecessary Images
While it is good to have some images, too many can also be a problem. Given that visual content tends to be by far the heaviest component of a website, it can slow down your page loading speed. Too many images can also clutter the page and make it feel less accessible, so you should always use your visuals strategically.
Select only quality images that either help informs the viewer about your product, communicate your brand or enhance your message. If you find your page load speed is unsatisfactory (three seconds or longer), you should consider removing some of the images you included in your initial design. One or two good images can be far more effective than dozens of lower-quality ones.
#3. Choose the Right Image Format
Images can be expressed as either vector or raster graphics. Vector images are highly scalable because they map out the image as a set of lines, points, and polygons. Raster graphics, on the other hand, are pixel-based and thus require a large number of data for high-resolution images. However, while vector images are best suited for simple geometric shapes, they are not the most efficient solution for complex, highly variable images, as any textures or finer details require significant markups and processing power. Still, in most cases, it is better to use vector images for high-DPI screens.
When you select or create your images, you should consider the overall effect you wish the image to have, as well as the appropriate image format for the devices you expect to be used. This may also have an impact on the overall visual style of your website. For example, if you want to avoid the challenges of scaling up raster images, you can opt for vector images and thus select images that are sharp, clearly defined and perhaps even cartoonish.
#4. Use Delta Encoding
If you do choose to include larger raster images in your website design, delta encoding is a great way to compress these images. This technique involves storing the differences, or “deltas”, between adjacent pixels, rather than storing the values of each individual pixel. This relational approach significantly reduces the number of bits required to convey the image, especially if there are many pixels with the same value.
#5. Consider File Formats
There are numerous file types for images and videos. Among the most common raster image formats are JPGs, PNGs, and GIFs, with the latter being a popular choice for short animations. JPGs are the most popular format for regular images, including photos and website banners, but they are lossy and are thus less suitable for dynamic video content or responsive content. PNGs are a close second and are typically used for simpler images such as logos, and can handle transparency, which JPGs cannot.
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GIFs and PNGs are both lossless, smaller files with a limited palette (256 colors), so they are less suitable for high quality, large images. SVGs are the most common vector image format, and can also be used for animations and interactive graphics. They are also lossless.
In the tradeoff between file size, image quality and resolution, you should consider the appropriate file format for the graphics you wish to display.
If you want your website to look appealing while maintaining seamless performance and fast page load time speed, you will need to strike a balance between the conflicting demands of quality and efficiency. You should think of your website design strategically, selecting which graphics need to be high-resolution, which web pages can afford to compress further, and which you can do away with altogether. These considerations will inform your choices in terms of image formats, file types and compression, and will ultimately influence the overall look of your website.
The tips mentioned above should help you get a sense of where to start with your website image optimization strategy. There are tools you can take advantage of to help speed up the process and facilitate the management of your files and compression, but at the end of the day you have to make the choices about the number, type and quality of your images, while keeping in mind the importance of optimizing your visual content for a better website experience and improved conversion rates.
Gilad David Maayan is a technology writer who has worked with over 150 technology companies including SAP, Samsung NEXT, NetApp and Imperva, producing technical and thought leadership content that elucidates technical solutions for developers and IT leadership. LinkedIn
Photo by Kreatikar via Pixabay