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2021 – Image Optimization Guide for Web Developers

If you trust our judgement, you don’t want your website visitors and Google to hate your website. Thankfully, you can now easily reduce your image’s file sizes to help enhance your website performance. The main issue with formatting images for your website is that updates generally reduce the quality of your website. It is typically not a bad thing as long as you make them look professional. There are some strategies that enable you to reduce the file size of your images and still make them look pretty on your website. 

Image optimization is an easy process of decreasing the size of an image to suit your website without ruining its quality. It is critical for the success of your website as it enhances your conversion rate, website speed and SEO. Images make upto 75% of total page weight on most web pages and hence it is important to ensure that you are displaying images in the right way without affecting the website speed. Website visitors would quickly leave your website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. This will significantly increase your bounce rate and reduce your conversion rate if the visitors leave your website quickly. In this blog, we will take a look at how to efficiently optimize your images without affecting the quality along with optimization for website conversion and SEO. 

2021 – Image Optimization tips

We will now list the most promising tips for Image Optimization in 2021 and beyond. 

1. Choose The Right Format

Choosing the right image format means a lot in the optimization process because each format is meant to deliver a particular requirement. 

  • JPEG – Ideal for still images, real-world images and complex colors.
  • PNG – Ideal for web images like logos and complex images like pictures.
  • GIF – Ideal for low-resolution images, animated graphics, tiny icons and simple images. But, it is not advisable to use the GIF format, instead you can use webp format.
  • TIFF – Ideal for high-quality images and large-size print graphics.
  • WebP – A new image format that provides great compression along with superior quality. 

Selecting the right format decreases bandwidth consumption for an enhanced page loading speed. But, a new format has been introduced, known as AVIF that covers the best properties of all the above mentioned formats and provides better results than WebP too. Moreover, AVIF offers more than 50 percent reduction in size when compared with the JPEG file format. These days, more and more businesses are publishing images in file formats like AVIF and WebP.

2. Lossy Vs Lossless Compression

It is crucial to understand that there are two major types of compression like lossy and lossless. 

  • Lossy –  It is a filter that gets rid of some of the data. Hence, it will reduce the image quality so you will need to take care when you reduce the image size. The file size can be decreased by a significant amount. For this purpose, you can use design tools like Adobe Photoshop or any other image editing softwares. 
  • Lossless It is a filter that reduces the data to an extent without affecting the quality much. This compression type doesn’t hamper the quality of the image but it will want the images to be uncompressed before it can be rendered. You can make a lossless compression on your computer with tools like Photoshop, FileOptimizer or ImageOptim.

It is ideal to play around with your compression techniques to see what works for each image or format. If your tools provide you the option then ensure that you have the image for the web. This is possible in most image editors and will provide you with quality changes so you can achieve optimal compression. You will lose some of the quality, so work around to find the best compression balance you can without affecting the image quality.

Content Delivery Network (CDN) 

Image compression and image CDNs work in tandem. Website images not only have to be optimized but have to be delivered quickly too. An optimized image is not useful if it cannot be transported instantly. An image CDN will take care of this requirement as it makes instant delivery of optimized images feasible by decreasing the distance between website visitors and the servers. 

The global image CDN serves a variety of purposes and added advantages including:

  • Allowing fast global reach via cloud acceleration.
  • Audience segmentation was made easy.
  • It helps you save money by reducing the need to invest in server providers around the world.
  • Brings down the load on the server to achieve low delivery cost.
  • Offers secure storage capacity.

The cautiously engineered image CDN from ImageEngine separates itself from the others due to its distinct features like:

  • The optimized images are delivered 30 percent faster than other CDNs.
  • It is quite easy to integrate and configure ImageEngine CDN.
  • The images are instantly optimized to the relevant format according to the user’s viewport size.
  • All images can be delivered in new formats like WebP and AVIF.
  • The images have a significantly reduced size and excellent image quality too.
  • It offers support for HTTP, HTTP/2, WAF and DDoS protection.

Browser Caching

The “Leverage Browser Caching” warning shown on the Google PageSpeed Insights tool when there is no caching in place has been set quite low. In basic terms, the warning is a suggestion to enhance your website speed. Browser caching shows the user’s browser to save some particular files on their local system instead of downloading the files again. For instance, a user is required to download the logo of a website on the initial visit. But, after the initial visit, a user would be able to load the logo from the local cache only if browser caching has been enabled. This will lead to faster loading as the user is no longer needed to get everything from the website’s server. 

Browser caching can also be used for not just images but various other kinds of files including object data and other resources. There are multiple ways to use browser caching but just adding the below lines of code to the .htaccess file is the most popular choice.

browser-caching

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Browser caching stores the images for a dedicated time for ease of accessibility. You can also follow industry standards for this very purpose. The timeline for the above code is around one year. The .htaccess file is found using the FTP program for connecting to the root directory of the website’s server. 

Get Rid of Hotlinking

Hotlinking is when an individual or a business copies an image URL and embeds it on their website. Due to this reason, the image being displayed is shown as an owned content. Hotlinking is a common practice for websites and often plays with copyright infringement. In most cases, hotlinking can be unintentional but it can definitely impact the original owner and may also cost them money. It can further impact the website’s performance if there is a drain of the server’s resources.

Flaky Connections

If a website contains too much content with rich images and the users do not have a stable internet connection, then it will be difficult to convert these users. This situation can also be called a lost business opportunity. Not all website users have access to fast and stable internet and hence it is advisable to optimize images for flaky connections.

A good practice to optimize images for slow internet use is to compress the images in real-time. But, it is crucial to determine the network speed of users before compressing the images. It is best to categorize the users into segments depending on connectivity like 2G, 3G, 4G or 5G. 

What is the impact of image optimization?

Now, let us discuss the positive impact of image optimization on your website.

Enhanced Page Load Speed

Page load speed is the actual time taken by a web page to load on the user side. It is based on multiple factors like your website host to website design and layout. The websites with less than three seconds page load speed are loved by the users. Hence, if you are optimizing your website images, you will be helping your website speed. This offers a great user experience and hence more people would love to interact with your website. There are various tools which can help you in optimizing your page load speed like Google’s PageSpeed Insights which will provide an overview of your web page. 

Improved SEO Ranking

avg-page-load-speed

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In 2010, Google made it clear that page load speed is an essential ranking factor. Just like the users, even Google hates slow websites. Google published an update in 2010 in its Webmasters Blog which states, “Like us, our users place a lot of value in speed – that’s why we have decided to take site speed into account in our search rankings”. Hence, it is evident that faster websites would rank higher in search engines than slower ones. 

Every website development company understands the relevance of search ranking along with digital marketers. Everyone wants to rank on the first page of Google and image optimization will surely take you there as it will significantly reduce your page load speed. 

Increase Conversions

If your search engine ranking goes up, you can get more users and possibly get more conversions. Page load speed directly affects the SEO ranking and website conversions. There has been ongoing research into this correlation by industry experts like Moz and Kissmetrics. According to Kissmetrics, around 79 percent of users who are not satisfied with the web page speed or performance do not wish to buy from the same website again. 

Better User Engagement

user-engagement

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A happy customer is just not a myth especially for websites that are offering an exceptional user experience and this can be true for your website too. All that needs to be done is to optimize the website images, work on the page load speed and hence offer an improved user experience. If your page is loading fast on any device, a visitor will  definitely spend more time on the website. 

It has been mentioned in various studies that visitors are likely to leave websites that are too slow. The web pages which load in less than 3 seconds have a bounce rate below 25%. Your page load speed also improves the returning rate. This means that customers will keep visiting your website and buy from you if they are happy with the page load speed. Hence, user satisfaction also depends on page load speed which can be enhanced by optimizing the web pages. 

Wrapping Up

In a digital world, each and every factor linked to your website performance matters. The expectations of visitors are definitely going to change with time. As a business owner, you can not afford to ignore the benefits of image optimization. The advantages are just not limited to the page load speed and SEO ranking. Image optimization as we have seen above is also responsible for boosting your website conversion. In the coming posts on image optimization, we will talk about alternate techniques for image optimization in detail along with relevant examples so please stay tuned. Do share your thoughts and experience of image optimization in the comments section below. 

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Rajiv Patil is the founder & Managing Director of Nimblechapps, an innovative web development company. He takes a keen interest in topics related to mobile app development, web development, mobile game development etc and often like to express his thoughts through informative blogs.