This is a guest post by Eric Portis – a proud member of (and newsletter-writer for) the Responsive Issues Community Group. The RICG formulated, championed, and standardized the new HTML features presented in the article.
Previously, we saw how to mark up performant, adaptable <img>s using srcset and sizes in conjunction with Cloudinary’s image transformations.
How far can we push that notion of “adaptability"? Last time, we learned how to offer up an image at a range of different resolutions. This allowed us to send large resources to large screens and small resources to small ones. We used srcset and sizes to adapt for performance. But visually, our images remained fixed.
What if we could go a step further and adapt our image’s visual characteristics at breakpoints, just like we adapt our pages’ layouts? The term for this sort of adaptation is art direction. In this article, we’ll create an art-directed front page for our example site:
The lead article’s preview image on this front page is huge, spanning the entire width of the page. On wide screens, in order to keep it from pushing the rest of the content “below the fold”, we need to crop it. Like this:
The rest of the image previews? They have the opposite problem. Left to simply shrink along with a narrowing viewport, they’d become too small to really make out. So on small screens, we want to “zoom in” on their subjects.
How can we achieve these things in markup? With a new element:
The first <source> element whose media attribute matches the current environment wins. The browser picks a resource out of that <source>’s srcset/sizes pair and feeds the picked resource to the <img>.
Et voila! An image that can change its appearance at breakpoints, as you can see in the examples above.
But dog-gone-it, we’ve done it again — by adding a new dimension of adaptability, we’ve multiplied the number of image resources we need to create and manage, making something that was once simple and static, dynamic and complex.
Cloudinary provides us with tools to manage that complexity.
A few months ago, I sat on on a stage at SmashingConf Freiburg, and Christian Heilmann asked me how, or if, one could automate the process of cropping in on the most important parts of an image. Stumped, I replied, “I don’t know, uh, something something neural networks?”
Right after my talk, Guy Podjarmy whisked me aside and showed me a few of Cloudinary’s auto-cropping features. I was amazed; now I get to show them to you!
First things first: in order to crop using Cloudinary, you need to specify a “crop mode”. We’ll start out by using the fill crop mode (c_fill in URLs), which works like background-fit: cover in CSS. The original image will be stretched or shrunk to cover the entirety of its new box, with any extra bits lopped off.
Let’s say we want to create a 100×100 square crop of our example image. Here’s how we’d do it:
This crop is… awkward. The president’s head is popping up from the bottom of the frame like a turnip.
By default, Cloudinary crops in on an image’s center. But what if we want to crop in on a different focal point? For that, we need to use Cloudinary’s “gravity” parameter. Our last crop chopped off the president’s body. Let’s aim lower, anchoring our crop to the bottom of the image:
So! Now we’ve seen how to mark up visually adaptable images using <picture> and generate alternate crops automatically using Cloudinary. We have everything we need to art direct our example’s giant header image:
Copy to clipboard
<picture><!-- wide crop --><sourcemedia="(min-width: 600px)"srcset="https://res.cloudinary.com/eeeps/image/upload/c_fill,ar_2:1,g_face,f_auto,q_70,w_600/on_the_phone.jpg 600w,https://res.cloudinary.com/eeeps/image/upload/c_fill,ar_2:1,g_face,f_auto,q_70,w_1200/on_the_phone.jpg 1200w"sizes="100vw"/><!-- standard crop --><imgsrcset="https://res.cloudinary.com/eeeps/image/upload/f_auto,q_70,w_400/on_the_phone.jpg 400w,https://res.cloudinary.com/eeeps/image/upload/f_auto,q_70,w_800/on_the_phone.jpg 800w"src="https://res.cloudinary.com/eeeps/image/upload/f_auto,q_70,w_400/on_the_phone.jpg"alt="President Obama on the phone in the Oval Office"sizes="100vw"/></picture>
This complex-looking example should now make some sense. We start with an un-cropped <img> (which includes a srcset and sizes so that it’ll look good across resolutions), wrap it in a <picture>, and give it a <source> sibling. This <source> represents the cropped version of our image, and will only send a resource to the <img> when its media attribute (min-width: 600px) matches the current environment.
That chunk of code gets us this:
The hero image in our example is a bit more complex than this, with more breakpoints, more srcset resources, and a couple of additional Cloudinary tricks which we’ll cover in our next section. View-source-ing it upon completion of the article is left as an exercise to the reader.
One gotcha with this technique: it will sometimes create a different crop, depending on the w specified. c_thumb will zoom in on the face as tightly as it can at the original image’s full resolution. If we specify a tiny w, it will happily scale the resulting, fully-zoomed face down:
If we split two sets of transformations with a forward slash, Cloudinary will apply the first set of transformations and treat the resulting image as input to the second set. Neat.
Finally—what if we don’t want such a tight crop? To zoom back out from the subject’s face, we need to learn one more parameter: z. z lets us zoom in or out via a multiplier. Values less than one zoom out, and values greater than one zoom in. So, to zoom out so that the cropped face ends up at a quarter of its original, tightly-cropped size, we specify z_0.25.
And with that, we can smartly zoom our example page’s thumbnails on small screens, using <picture>, <source>, and Cloudinary:
Copy to clipboard
<picture><!-- full image --><sourcemedia="(min-width: 600px)"srcset="https://res.cloudinary.com/eeeps/image/upload/f_auto,q_70,w_150/ronny.jpg 150w,https://res.cloudinary.com/eeeps/image/upload/f_auto,q_70,w_400/ronny.jpg 400w"sizes="calc(8em + 1vw)"/><!-- zoomed + square-cropped thumb for small screens --><imgsrcset="https://res.cloudinary.com/eeeps/image/upload/c_thumb,g_face,ar_1:1,z_0.25,w_180/f_auto,q_70,w_90/ronny.jpg 90w,https://res.cloudinary.com/eeeps/image/upload/c_thumb,g_face,ar_1:1,z_0.25,w_180/f_auto,q_70,w_180/ronny.jpg 180w"sizes="calc(4em + 3vw)"src="https://res.cloudinary.com/eeeps/image/upload/c_thumb,g_face,ar_1:1,z_0.25,w_180/f_auto,q_70,w_90/ronny.jpg"alt="President Obama speaking to Ronny Jackson"/></picture>
A giant chunk of code like this can be intimidating; the trick is to look at it like a cake – multiple layers, each one building off of the last. Let’s break it down from the bottom.
We start, as always, with an <img> and some alt text, describing the image.
For browsers that can display images (and users that can see them), we include an <img src> on top of it, which contains the mobile-first default version of our image.
Browsers that understand srcset and sizes (which, these days, is just about all of them) will use these attributes, instead of the src, to select a resource to load, giving our image the ability to adapt to fit a range of viewport sizes and display densities.
Finally, we wrap our <img> in a <picture> and give it a <source> sibling, which will, in supporting browsers and on larger screens, allow the image to visually adapt, zooming out at a breakpoint when the viewport is sufficiently large.
Put it all together, and in a modern browser, you get this:
So there you have it – visually-adaptive, art-directed images using <picture>, <source>, and Cloudinary. Art direction opens up new frontiers in responsive design; Cloudinary’s on-the-fly face-detection, cropping, resizing, and optimization capabilities make it easy. So: go forth! And mark up performant, adaptable, progressively enhanced images for all.
Since its founding Cloudinary has been a people-driven business. We wanted to create a culture fueled by transparency, trust and collaboration to encourage our employees to always be developing, learning and contributing.
Optimized media assets have always been essential to website performance. To help developers measure, understand and improve website performance, Google created Core Web Vitals, a subset of Web Vitals that focuses on three aspects of the user experience: loading, interactivity, and visual stability. In June 2021, Google plans to make page experience a ranking factor—so Core Web Vitals and media asset optimization will become even more important.
Video is one of the best ways for capturing audience attention. Product demonstrations, property tours, tutorials, and keynotes all make great content—provided that they’re readily searchable by your team and visitors alike. Even though tagging and categorization help organize videos and make them easy to find, the labeling process is labor intensive, taking time away from key tasks like creating new videos.
Setting up the infrastructure for video uploads can go from straightforward to complex real fast. Why? Because many challenges are involved in building a foolproof service for an efficient and smooth process.
For years, Google has been updating its search algorithm to prioritize end-user experience, displaying the most relevant and helpful content at the top of search results. The latest—and maybe the most significant—update so far is Core Web Vitals (CWVs), which are new metrics announced a year ago that will, starting in June, begin determining search rankings. With this update, Google is being abundantly clear that visual experience of webpages is paramount.
Videos are large media files—in most cases, at least four times larger than images—and are often created for ads, marketing campaigns, and instructional content to convey as much information as possible in a short time. Ensuring that videos do not buffer all the time and that the user’s data is protected from rapid consumption due to heavy page weight must be the modus operandi for all website builders and e-business owners.