It’s no secret that one of the most common problems seen on web pages is a slow load time.
As the internet grows more image-heavy, it’s evident that you cannot just make a text-only page to pull in your target audience. On the other hand, no one likes to wait for a web page to open. As a result of slow load times, they may leave the website altogether, thus increasing the bounce rate.
This leads to the dilemma of designing a website with optimal load speed – without sacrificing the image quality. The proven solution is using image optimisation to tweak a few aspects of the image before or while uploading it to a website.
However, optimising every image is a time-consuming process, so we thought of coming up with this guide to let you know if it’s essential to optimise images. Also, look out for some of the nifty optimisation techniques that we will mention later.
So, without further ado, let’s begin!
What Is Image Optimisation?
The first step to optimising images for the web is to understand what the technique truly entails. And while image optimisation may seem like a self-explanatory phrase, people are often confused about how it works.
The main goal of image optimisation is to present quality images on a web page without hampering the optimal page load time. So, the image file size should be kept at a minimum to load almost instantaneously with the text.
One of the easiest ways to optimise an image is to put it through a compression website. These websites preserve the quality of an image while reducing its file size. However, there are several other ways to optimise images, and it can be as simple as using a plugin.
Moreover, as more people use the internet on their smartphones, web pages and images need to be further modified to fit the capacity of the devices.
Apart from the user-friendliness aspect of optimising images, it also proves to be a powerful SEO technique to rank websites. Needless to say, image compression or optimisation has become indispensable for designing a high-performance website.
Benefits Of Image Optimisation
You may have heard from many people that optimising images is a must for maintaining a good web page. But what exactly are the benefits of spending hours on this extra step? Here, we will list some of the advantages of optimised images that you will notice soon after implementing the techniques for your web page.
1. Improved Page Load Speed
The foremost reason to alter image sizes is to improve the load time of a web page. Apart from your internet speed, the content of a page also matters when it comes to loading. However, it may also depend on design aspects such as animations, which can slow down the load time.
But, if you want to retain the audience on a website, it’s best to have web pages that load in about two seconds. As large images take up a lot of space, optimising the file size and applying compression may reduce the load times significantly.
This becomes especially true for mobile users who often jump between pages. So, when you optimise images for the web, it’s necessary to make changes for both PC and smartphone formats to ensure optimal user experiences.
While designing a website or uploading a new image online, make sure to check the existing loading speed. For instance, Google’s PageSpeed Insights is a favourite among developers as it gives a detailed look into how a website is performing.
2. Enhance SEO Ranking
You may have already heard about the usefulness of SEO or search engine optimisation. It’s a technique to improve your website’s rank on search engines. However, there are no set parameters of SEO that’s been approved by a search engine to date.
So, most people need to experiment with different techniques to see if there are any changes. For instance, optimising the text with keywords and quality writing is a frequently used measure for achieving a better rank in search pages.
Additionally, optimising images for the web works quite well. Even search engines like Google prefer sites with a fast load speed, as they are well-received by users.
So, even if you happen to have great content and high-quality images on your web pages, a dragging load time may reduce the search page ranking. Thus, there’s no way to work past optimising the images for your website.
Apart from reducing the file size of an image, adding proper alt texts and titles to the image file may also help increase the searchability of an item. With the proper techniques, your website’s images may even come up in search results.
What’s more, optimising images for a better ranking is especially important for those running e-commerce websites. As these websites are often image-heavy, the page load times tend to be on the higher side. However, having an optimal load time may help you rank higher than your competitor.
A higher search page rank also helps build the trust of potential customers because of the perceived value. Nevertheless, make sure to use a compression method to retain the image quality and follow the recommended image dimensions mentioned by Google.
3. Increased Conversion Rate
If you run a website that offers products or services, there’s a chance of experiencing a low conversion rate. But, as your main goal is to make a sale, it’s essential to retain the audience and make them interact with the page. In this case, optimising the images can lead to better conversion as it’s directly linked to SEO and user-friendliness.
When someone searches for a particular keyword and your site manages to come out as a top result, the user is bound to have a good impression of you.
On top of that, if the site has high-quality images with helpful information and content, then it’s more likely for them to become your customer. It may also lead to the user checking out other pages on the website, which brings down the bounce rate and may also improve the website’s ranking.
At first, you may doubt that compressing image sizes may give such benefits. And although we can’t guarantee overnight success, it is sure to improve user-friendliness considerably.
In fact, SEO experts have found that people are unlikely to revisit a site that has a long page load time. And, the audience usually expects a website to load in two to three seconds, which is nearly impossible without optimising the images.
4. Better User Experience And More Engagement
The ultimate reason for designing a good website is to attract and impress the target audience. Indeed, you don’t want to see a high bounce rate for your website, which is often the case for photos without optimisation that weigh down a web page.
Needless to say, using image optimisation in the right way helps increase user experience, and more people are satisfied with what you have to offer. Along with a good search rank, a quick load time is the best impression on a person, especially if you have an e-commerce website.
The aim of pulling in an audience is to make them interact with other pages on the website. And, people tend to get quite frustrated when pages take a longer time to load. Also, while optimising, you need to ensure that the load time is fast for all kinds of devices — the most important being smartphones.
Besides, there are instances where putting the wrong image file size can cost you heavily if devices cannot load the images. This makes the users unhappy, hurts your site’s reputation, and the design may appear unprofessional.
Additionally, it’s also likely that a person will interact even more with a website when it loads quicker, leading to more sales for e-commerce sites. As a result, satisfied customers will return to the same websites in future.
With content-based websites, well-optimised images improve readability, helping a user go through the whole page before losing interest. On the flip side, if the page load time increases by even a couple of seconds, the bounce rate may double or triple. In this way, using image optimisation is the definitive way to make the user experience better.
How To Optimise Images For The Web?
By now, you know that it’s worth spending time optimising the images, reducing the file size of large images with a high resolution. That said, it’s essential to know about the options that make the task easier.
Yes, it’s most likely that you will still spend a lot of time in photo optimisation, but doing it most efficiently gives increasingly better results. Here, we have gathered some of the methods you can use to optimise photos for the web.
1. Easy Image Compression
As a beginner, the easiest thing to do is visit a photo compression site to reduce the file size. Simply put, compression is a technique where the data of a file is reduced without hampering the image quality.
There are several websites available on the internet, but try to find one with a secured connection. On such websites, you’ll need to upload the image and choose the desired amount of compression. You may even select a deduction in quality to a certain extent if the file size is too large or has a high resolution.
These websites let you download the file in any popular image format, after which you can upload it to your website. When it comes to the dimensions, try to keep it above 1200 pixels, which is the standard size prefered by Google.
2. Using Adobe Photoshop
Once you open Photoshop, you can find the “image size” option under the “image” tab. It allows you to change the pixel dimensions or the size and resolution of an image. While saving an edited image, you can also use the “save for web” option to get a small image size with higher image quality.
Those already into image editing may also try other software options like Affinity Photo or GIMP to make the changes. Even simple editors, such as Microsoft Paint, can help reduce the file size for online images.
3. Lossy And Lossless Compression
In recent times, the talking point of data compression has been about whether to use lossy or lossless compression. So, before you proceed to optimise images, it’s good to know about these two popular ways of image compression.
A) Lossy Compression
In this form of compression, there’s the use of inexact approximations and discarding partial data of an image to reduce the file size. However, there might be some quality loss in this technique, which may not be ideal for some people.
A file that has been reduced with lossy compression cannot be reverted to its original form once data is discarded. Having said that, this form of compression has a better data holding capacity, which is excellent for compressing larger files.
B) Lossless Compression
As the name suggests, there’s no loss of data in this technique. Hence, the format can be altered and reverted to its original form without any quality loss.
But, the file sizes are usually greater than in lossy compression. A file type like PNG images is a suitable example of lossless compression, and many people prefer to use this format on their websites.
It is worth noting that there isn’t any harm in either compression technique. However, it would help to make sure that the image file is tweaked to reduce the page load time. So, now and then, you may need to settle for lossy compression just to increase the speed.
But, try to keep the compression level within 50% to avoid any noticeable quality changes that may affect the look of your website.
4. Choosing The Right Image File Format
The image format you choose is intertwined with the lossless and lossy techniques. That said, selecting the correct file type is essential to see the benefits of any image compression. Here are some of the standard formats seen in images for web use:
This is the most common file type seen on the internet that can be reduced considerably. In fact, you will usually end up with a JPEG file while downloading a picture from the web. It’s also the usual format in which a file is saved after lossy compression.
While JPEG files help decrease the page load time, the important thing is to compress the JPEG images in such a manner that the loss of quality isn’t too evident.
Another predominant file format is PNG, which is often used to retain the high-quality features of an image, especially graphics. That said, a PNG file is solely reserved for web use and not for print.
As we said already, when you compress a file in the lossless technique, it usually converts a photo to the PNG format. It’s also a usual choice for decorative images on a website. However, compared to a JPEG image, the image size is larger.
One of the latest image formats, WebP, is a file format that works on Google Chrome and Firefox, two of the most widely-used browsers.
For starters, WebP images are said to be even smaller than JPEGs while retaining better quality. WEBP supports transparency, so it has an edge over PNG when it comes to optimising images.
The only catch about using this file format for online use is the lack of support in Safari browsers. Simply put, Mac or iPhone users won’t be able to access WebP images.
Most people are aware of GIF images because of their popularity in the context of online memes. But, when it comes to using this file type for web design, we suggest looking for other options due to the small file size of GIF images.
AVIF is a new technology getting widespread adoption by all modern web browsers and operating systems, it’s derived from the keyframes of AV1 video. Its widespread adoption in modern browsers and devices makes it a perfect alternative to WEBP, whilst it’s not supported in older browsers, a fallback option is possible using . AVIF is a direct alternative to WEBP with similar results in compression.
5. Naming The Image File
Have you ever noticed the names that come up after you save photos? If not, then you should, as it’s usually something that’s attributed to the image by your camera. Or, it can also be a generic file name given by the original file uploader of a site.
With that in mind, ensure that you alter the file name to accommodate the keywords in the content. Using descriptive file names also helps web crawlers of Google identify the image and rank the website accordingly.
For instance, rather than using a generic keyword, such as “fountain-pen.jpg”, you can go a bit more in-depth and name the web image “vintage-1950-Conway-Stewart-388-fountain-pen.jpg”.
It’s essential to do so, as users often search using specific keywords, such as ’vintage Conway Stewart 388’. So, including the keyword may give them search results where your website is listed.
Some people like to dive deep into the keyword patterns of their audience while optimising the image file name. However, as a beginner, try to keep the terms descriptive to make it easier for Google and other search engines to pick it up when showing results.
You may also want to categorise the media library in such a way that there aren’t any mix-ups between similar photos and file names.
6. Proper SEO-friendly Alt Text
The alt text is one of the most neglected parts of an online image. As it isn’t visible to most users, some people even forget to add the alt text. However, to optimise the image on a website, it’s crucial to provide a proper alt text that’s explanatory.
“Alt texts” stands for alternative texts, which help visually-impaired persons navigate a website. On some web pages, you can see the alt text when the cursor hovers over an image. It’s also visible if there’s an error while loading the image.
Apart from providing more accessibility, adding alt texts and attributes increases the chances of photos showing up in search engines. Needless to say, alt texts add value to an image.
Additionally, remember that you have to provide alt texts to all images on your website. Use plain and simple language to describe the image. In the case of product images, try to use the serial number or model number along with the company name. So, something along the lines of “BIC push clip pen G55329” would work well.
At the same time, a common mistake many people make is to stuff alt texts with keywords. It would be best not to do that, as Google may penalise the website for keyword stuffing. Also, keep in mind not to use alt texts for decorative images as it may lead to over-optimisation, which is undesirable.
7. Using Plugins
If you are using a content management platform like WordPress, all you need to do is install a plugin that can reduce file sizes after an upload. As the plugins work automatically, you don’t have to worry about choosing the image size or dimension.
However, choosing a WordPress plugin that compresses an image externally is important to avoid a longer page load time. Some options of such WordPress plugins include:
Optimising Images For Your Website
Hopefully, you now know why tweaking images is integral for creating a user-friendly web page and proper SEO optimisation.
Of course, beginners may need some time to pick up all the techniques or figure out a form of optimisation that works for their particular website. However, your time and effort will be rewarded with excellent loading speed and perhaps, more audience interaction.
We hope that our informative guide has helped you figure out the benefits of image optimisation and how to get started. On that note, do share your thoughts and experience with image optimisation in the comments section.