When it comes to websites, visual content plays a key role in enhancing a user’s experience and their impression of your brand/business. Websites use images for a wide variety of reasons. Studies show us that about 37% of people are visual learners. Images can tell a convincing story, which is the reason brands use imagery to convey their stories and idealism. E-commerce stores have also been growing at an exponential rate, and images obviously play a huge part in their website structure.
Besides this, images pretty much form the core of any website or portfolio that is part of a creative field of work. Additionally, given the fact that there is no actual limit to the number of images that you can use in a single web page, web designers tend to be liberal with the number of images they use. In fact, images make up over 65% of the web content. The result of this can be seen across the internet today, with a lot of websites like this one using stunning visual imagery to guide the user’s journey through their site.
That being said, how many of us actually pay attention to optimizing the images that we use on our website? And why is it important?
Well, first, let me tell you why this is important. I’m sure most of us are aware of the fact that images take up most of a web page’s weight. Consequently, the heavier a web page is, the more time it takes to load. Additionally, statistics show us that the probability of a user leaving a web page increases by 32% if the page takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
Images, being one of the heaviest elements on a web page, take up more weight. This causes the webpage to slow down, which might cause an increase in the webpage’s bounce rate. In order to minimize this, we need to take a closer look at optimizing the images that we use.
To help you with this, I’m going to be listing down the five best ways to optimize your website’s images to make your website’s performance and SEO better.
- Cropped ImagesCropping the images that you use to optimal dimensions provides value beyond just visual appeal. Since images are made up of pixels, and each individual pixel carries certain image data, they add to the weight of the image. Simply put, the more pixels in your image, the heavier the image will be. By cropping your images, you are eliminating as many pixels as you can, which directly translates to a lighter image weight.
Additionally, you also need to keep in mind that resizing your images also helps, apart from cropping them. What I mean by this is that you need to resize the original image, according to the display size on your web page. For instance, let’s say that you are using an image with dimensions of 1000*800 pixels. If your display size for that same image on your website is 600*400 pixels, then you need to resize the image accordingly, before uploading it. There are a ton of tools that you can use to do this, such as these.
- Image CompressionMost of us are aware that compressing your images is a standard practice before uploading them on a website. However, you also need to pay attention to the type of compression that you use, as this could affect user experience when it comes to certain end uses such as photography.
There are two main types of compression that are used by every image type out there. They are lossy and lossless compression.
Lossy compression works by taking advantage of how the human eye perceives images. It does this by eliminating pixel data wherever surrounding pixels have the same or similar composition. The omittance of this data is often almost unnoticeable unless zoomed in to a certain extent.
On the other hand, lossless compression merely compresses all the image data as it is, and as a result, has a slightly lower compression rate than lossy compression. However, since no pixel data is eliminated, the images are more crisp and detailed, even when zoomed in.
Images with lossy compression are best suited for websites that primarily use textual content or simple infographics, without much emphasis on visual content. A good example for this would be government websites, blogs (that are not based on creatives), and websites that host research articles.
On the other hand, images with lossless compression are usually used in visually heavy websites where you need images to remain clear, even when zoomed in. This includes websites such as e-commerce, travel, and social media sites.
You can even combine these two compression techniques and get a sharper image with a higher compression rate. Image editing software like these can be used for such purposes.
- Appropriate File TypeOnce you have edited the images that you will be using for your website, you need to choose the most appropriate file type for the same. The file type that you choose will depend on the type of compression that you need, and the end use of that particular image. There are three image file types that are widely used, and they are JPEGs, PNGs, and GIFs.
JPEG stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group. It is the format that is most commonly used when it comes to images. This is due to the fact that JPEG offers the highest colour depth, and supports both lossy and lossless compression. You can easily adjust the quality and the file size in this format, as you require. JPEGs are normally used for complex images with rich detail.
PNG, which stands for Portable Network Graphics, is another image type that produces rich and sharp detail. However, this file type uses only lossless compression, due to which it has a considerably higher file size. Therefore, this format is more appropriate for logos and simple imagery.
GIF, short for Graphics Interchange Format, has very low colour depth, being restricted to just 256 colours. It also uses only lossless compression, but this format can support animation. Hence, it is used for animated loop images. This is used mostly in websites where visual cues are essential to communicate with the viewer, such as websites for digital media businesses and ones that host tutorials online.
- Remove Excess DataIn most cases, when a picture is taken, there is a bunch of data that gets saved along with the image. This is called metadata. Metadata is mostly just information such as geolocation, make and model of the camera, ISO, shutter speed, aperture, etc. All this information adds to the weight of the image, and most of the time is completely unnecessary. So it is advisable to remove all this excess metadata, wherever it is redundant. You can use several free online tools to do this.
- Raster Vs. VectorJust as choosing the right file type for your images is important, so is choosing the right type of graphics. When working with digital images, you will mostly deal with two basic types of image graphics – raster and vector. Your end users will determine which type of graphic you use for your images.
Images that use raster graphics are formed by pixels, and hence exhibit a high level of detail regardless of the complexity of the image. However, this tends to leave you with images that have a higher file size, and are susceptible to blurring when zoomed in.
On the other hand, vector images use paths such as points, lines, and polygons to portray an image. They are resolution independent, meaning these images don’t blur out when zoomed in on. They also have a smaller file size, since they don’t use pixels. Vector graphics are best suited for simple, geometric images such as logos and icons.
These are the five main things that you need to do to ensure that your visual content is optimized for web usage. Apart from this, you should also make sure that you include all the right image tags and alt text, to make it easier for search engines to understand what the image contains.
However, optimizing your images is just a small part of improving your website’s SEO. In order to make the most of it, you need to look at optimizing every aspect of your website, right from the layout to its local schema. It can seem a bit overwhelming at first, but here’s a downloadable checklist that you can use to do this in a systematic manner. Hope it helps!