The goal of optimizing website images is to efficiently serve them online. Properly optimized web images result in faster page loads, which makes viewers happy. It also makes search engines happy since priority rankings are given to faster pages.
You can optimize web images in many ways. Some of them require manual configuration; others automate the process. This article explains four optimization techniques and offers best-practice tips for success. Here are the topics:
- What is image optimization?
- How do you optimize images for the web?
- What Are the best practices for image optimization?
- How do you optimize website images with Cloudinary?
- Want to learn more about image optimization?
What is Image Optimization?
Optimization of website images is the process of storing and delivering them efficiently through compression, a prudent choice of their formats, and delivery of images only when needed. Many plugins and tools are available for automation, eliminating the drudgery of manual tasks.
Here are the most common benefits of optimizing online images:
- Faster page loads
- A higher search-engine ranking
- An enhanced user experience that leads to higher conversion rates
- Reduced storage and bandwidth required for serving images
- Faster website backups
How Do You Optimize Images for the Web?
You can optimize website images in many ways, including the option of combining multiple methods to achieve greater optimization.
To determine which way to opt for and its effect on your site, analyze the site’s current performance. Google PageSpeed Insights is a free tool that identifies the images to optimize and that offers recommendations for the process.
Perform one or more of the four following tasks to optimize your site’s images.
Compressing an image reduces its file size by eliminating or reformatting unnecessary data. You can do that in either of these two ways:
- Lossy compression: Delete unnecessary metadata or visual data that is typically not perceived by humans. However, this method downgrades the image quality to further reduce the file size. Also, the data deleted is permanently lost.
- Lossless compression: Eliminate duplicate data by replacing its patterns with variables or other indicators, which results in files that are larger than those generated by lossy compression. In this case, the compressed data is recoverable.
q_auto feature automatically compresses and tunes images for the smallest-possible image size without sacrificing image quality.
- You add the
q_autoparameter to the image URL.
- Cloudinary’s intelligent quality and encoding algorithm assesses the image content, format, and viewing browser.
- The algorithm identifies the optimal quality-compression level and encoding settings, compressing and encoding the image accordingly.
This process ensures that websites, browsers, viewers, and devices are served with a compressed version of a superior-quality visual. Below is an example.
Learn more about
q_autoin this post: Compress an Image Automatically Without Losing Quality.
Next-generation image formats, e.g., the four described below, deliver more compression than older formats, such as JPEG, further reducing the size of your images without quality loss.
- WebP, an open-source format that supports both lossy and lossless compressions. Developed by Google, WebP works on Google, Samsung, Opera, and Firefox 65 and higher browsers. WebP files are typically about 25 percent smaller than those of comparable formats. This format could be an ideal replacement of GIF, JPEG, and PNG.
- JPEG-XR, a proprietary format, developed by Microsoft, that works on Internet Explorer and Edge browsers. JPEG-XR extends the current lossy-compression techniques for JPEG with support for lossless compression and transparency.
- JPEG2000 (JP2), an open-source format for lossless compression. This is a highly scalable ISO standard that enables individual parts of an image to be stored at different qualities. However, this format works only in Safari without a plugin.
For insights on what is in store for next-generation formats, check out Cloudinary's 2020 State of the Visual Media Report
f_auto capability delivers the most appropriate image format to the viewer’s browser, completely automatically.
First, Cloudinary transforms media assets through dynamic HTTP or HTTPS URLs, assigning each media asset a unique URL and a public ID. When serving an asset, Cloudinary delivers the URL via a fast content delivery network (CDN).
See this example of an asset’s delivery URL on Cloudinary:
To optimize media on Cloudinary, you simply add a parameter, in this case
f_auto, to the URL, as in this example:
f_auto tells Cloudinary’s intelligent algorithm to automatically fetch formats after selecting the right format for each requesting browser. Below is an example.
Learn more about
f_autoin this post: Automatically Reduce Image Size Without Losing Quality.
Suppose you do not want to compress or reformat your images. Or, compression and reformatting do not meet your optimization requirements. In those cases, you can resize images to optimize them.
Often, you resize images by means of styling components when the images are displayed. That involves an upload of unnecessary data since the full size of the image is never visible. To resize images to the largest-possible display size, eliminate all that unused data.
By leveraging AI, Cloudinary can dynamically resize images and crop them for the most interesting parts. Dynamic cropping in Cloudinary is done by means of intelligent responsive breakpoints. You have two options:
- Automatic breakpoints: Cloudinary’s intelligent algorithm can calculate the settings for optimal breakpoints by accounting for the number of generated image versions and the file-size reduction that occurred with each version. The difference determines the actual image-file size for each width. For details, see our documentation on responsive images.
- Cloudinary API: You can programmatically request breakpoints for uploaded images through the Cloudinary API by specifying settings like width range and requesting a transformation. Furthermore, you can request multiple image transformations, including cropping, image effects, filters, and optimization. For details, see this post: Introducing Intelligent Responsive Breakpoints Solutions.
Regardless of what other image-optimization techniques you employ, always do lazy loading, which loads images only when your viewer wants to see them. Typically, to detect that desire on the viewer’s part, you load images as that individual scrolls through your site.
Lazy loading reduces the amount of data that must load upon site access. If the sections that contain images are never accessed, their data is never sent, saving bandwidth for you and your viewers.
With Cloudinary’s new
lazy feature, you can lazy-load images, i.e., display them only if and when necessary, with only a few keystrokes. Simply add the attribute
loading=“lazy” to your images’
For details, see this post: Advanced Image Component for Cloudinary’s Angular SDKs.
What Are the Best Practices for Image Optimization?
We strongly suggest that you also do the following to optimize your site’s images.
Before optimizing images, evaluate which ones are necessary. For example, many background images are simple gradients or patterns that you can render with CSS instead of displaying them. Since CSS is natively rendered, it requires no additional storage or bandwidth for transferring content, as images do.
Also, a good alternative for images is web fonts, with which you can lay text over images. You can use specialized fonts for text with no need to display it as images. Another benefit of leveraging web fonts is that viewers can search for, select, and resize text as they desire. What a win-win!
If you do need to display images for your site, you can choose between vector and raster images.
Vector images are scalable, being made up of points, lines, and polygons. Those images deliver the same degree of clarity and quality regardless of display size. Generally, vector images are ideal for simple visuals, such as text, logos, and icons.
To optimize vector graphics, you can minify them to remove unnecessary metadata, a process that promises to reduce their size by half or more.
Raster images, being defined by pixels, are limited in scalability. Those images are generally slated for photos or more complex graphics.
To optimize raster images, do one of the following:
- Reduce the bit depth. Reduce the color or shade palette available to images. Adopt this technique for simple images without fine gradients.
- Practice delta encoding. Eliminate redundant pixel information by storing the differences in a value between pixels. That way, you can store data for many similar pixels by referencing a source pixel, simultaneously saving bandwidth.
Besides conserving space and bandwidth, correctly sizing images leads to a better user experience. In addition to performing the resizing steps described earlier, you can also serve multiple image sizes to viewers. Even though such a practice requires more storage space on your web server, it limits the bandwidth for serving content.
An easy way to correctly resize images is with the HTML
<picture> element, which defines multiple sources for images you can then serve according to browser specifications. Also, with this step, you can deliver different formats of images or different images altogether.
How do you Optimize Website Images With Cloudinary?
Cloudinary offers an extensive range of image optimization and management capabilities, such as automation of compression accompanied by a high level of quality. With Cloudinary, not only can you resize images without worrying about degradation, you can also lazy-load them to accelerate page loads.
All of those optimization features and many other nifty capabilities are part of Cloudinary’s digital asset management (DAM) solution. Sign up for Cloudinary pronto! We offer generous free plans to get you started.
Want to Learn More About Image Optimization?
Image optimization is the procedure of storing and delivering images efficiently through compression and a careful selection of their formats. The most common benefits of optimizing website images are faster page loads, reduced storage and bandwidth, higher search-engine ranking, an enhanced user experience, and faster website backups.
Image optimization is a massive topic. Below are a few excellent tips and suggestions from our blog.
Image compression is a mandatory step for delivering images of the smallest-possible size while maintaining visual quality. Since smaller images load faster, compressing images results in enhanced site performance.
You can optimize several aspects of PHP images, e.g., the built-in functions; the Image Optimizer library; PHP Image Cache class, which compresses images on the fly; and the Imagick extension.
You can optimize images in Python, notably the following components:
- The Pillow library, which builds on the Python Imaging Library (PIL) by adding more features and support for Python 3.
- The img4web script, which optimizes PNG, JPEG, and animated GIF images online.
- The smush.py command-line tool, a lossless image optimizer.
- The Tinify package for compressing and optimizing images.
- The scikit-image image-processing library.
This article explains how to enhance site performance and reduce bandwidth by optimizing and transforming images with Python.
Promising to be of help to developers, designers, and users alike, Safari Technology Preview is improving GIF-like experiences by enabling video content in
<img>tags with no performance and quality losses associated with GIF images. Besides the performance benefits, that capability unlocks many new use cases that have been on the wish list of media and e-commerce businesses for years.
As a major component of modern websites, images take up more than 60 percent of a site's total bandwidth. That weighty issue is even more prominent in cutting-edge web designs. Unfortunately, bandwidth is a costly commodity: for high-traffic websites, bandwidth soaks up the majority of your IT budget, easily surpassing storage and hosting costs. This article identifies the top 10 mistakes you could make with website images and describes the solutions.
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The enhanced Cloudinary for WordPress Plugin comprises robust features that make it easier than ever to manage and deliver optimized media assets.
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Compressed images usually come at the cost of lower quality, which, even though not always noticeable to the human eye, can make a difference visually, depending on the image.
Developers tend to shy away from aggressively compressing images for fear of degrading the visual quality. However, accurate adjustment of the compression level, complemented by fine-tuning of the encoding settings, can greatly reduce the file size without any noticeable degradation in quality.
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