Image optimisation (spelled "optimization" in the US) is a crucial factor that every website owner should be aware of. It's a simple but effective way to drastically reduce the size of your image files (e.g. jpg and png) without reducing the quality of the image itself by compressing them to a smaller size. What this means is that if an image that is, say, 5MB in size can be reduced (or "compressed") down to a couple of hundred kilobytes (0.2MB) without the viewer noticing any difference when they look at it. That means the newly optimized image will take up 25x less space on your webserver. It's what we do, and so do all self-respecting SEO (search engine optimisation) companies.
In case you don't want to read the whole article, here are a few excellent choices of 100% free image optimisation websites that are easy to use and do a good job in reducing the size of your image files:
- Tinypng is our favourite, mainly because it has a nice picture of a panda wearing a gold crown on it. It's easy to use, gives before and after examples and is, of course, free. You simply upload your 'jpg or .png image to the website and it'll optimise/compress it for you. You then just click "download" and you're done. It even tells you the percentage you've saved.
- Image optimizer is our next choice. Although there are no cute pandas on it, it's lightning-fast, gives you some nice compression options and there's even a free version that you can download to use on your own pc - but it does add a watermark if you do. If you try it and like it, there's also a paid option with no watermark on your newly compressed image.
- Optimizilla is our 3rd choice. Again, quick and easy to use, will accept up to 20 images at a time and, of course, it's free. Just upload your image, wait for the conversion then download your newly compressed image. If you prefer to reduce the file size even further, this website has a nice easy-to-use-slider with a preview panel that enables you to reduce the file size (and image quality) even further.
The benefits of image optimisation
There are actually quite a few. Perhaps the main benefit is you can speed up your website visitors' page load time. Nowadays, people hate it when they have to wait even a few seconds for a website to load. If your homepage is laden with lots of pretty images that may look impressive, but take an eon to load, you can guarantee that some of the visitors will get frustrated and leave your website. Not only does this adversely affect your website's "bounce rate" (we'll get into what that means in another post), it has the obvious potential to lose you valuably prospective business as well; especially for the many users who may be on a mobile phone to view your website. If the user is in a poor reception area, not only will your website eat all of their data, it'll take ages to load too.
Optimising your images also significantly reduces the amount of space your website occupies on your hosting server. Most web hosting companies will place a limit on the amount of disk space your website's files are allowed to occupy. Basically, the more space one website takes, the less space there is for the others. Since hosting companies typically place hundreds of websites on the same, shared web server so they can make a decent profit from their investment, they'll put a cap on how much space yours is permitted to take up.
If you have hundreds of unoptimised images, you could well reach your allowance pretty quickly. Well-optimised images take up a fraction of the space of the original, meaning you can upload tons more without hitting your hosting limit. Add to the fact that, if yours is a WordPress website, WordPress will automatically create a series of different sizes for every image you upload - A rather handy, albeit annoying default in many cases (and not easy to disable). More photos = more server space used. Fortunately, Joomla doesn't do this.
It's also worth pointing out that the benefits mentioned above generally have no impact on the quality of the image that the user sees, so it really is a win-win to optimize all of your images prior to uploading them.
The drawbacks of image optimisation
There really aren't that many and it's a no-brainer to optimize your images UNLESS you specifically need them to be very large in the first place. For example, you're a professional photographer who's been commissioned to take a photo for a billboard campaign. Because the image on the billboard will be huge, you need the original to be of a very high resolution otherwise it will end up looking "grainy" when it's blown up to be 20 square metres in size.
Back in the good ol' days there were software programs like Macromedia's Fireworks which did an excellent job when it came to manipulating images, including optimising them. In short, it was a bitmap and vector graphics editor that has now been discontinued. Nowadays, there are programs (computer software) such as Adobe Photoshop which is basically just a more advanced, up-to-date version of Fireworks. Although you CAN download Photoshop and use it or free for 7 days, after that you'll have to pay for it, and, although it's very good, it ain't cheap!
So, if you work with images for a living or need to manipulate lots of them on a regular basis, it may be worth investing in subscribing to a company like Adobe to use their software but if you don't then why not take advantage of the many free image optimisation services that are available online.
Optimisation in one guise or another is our thing - it's what we do for a living at our Kent optimisation company; not just with images alone, but with entire websites.. If your website is failing to live up to your expectations and new enquiries are thin on the ground, get in touch to see if we can help?