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Sunday, December 6, 2020

A Quick Guide to Improve Your Image-Heavy Website Loading Speed

Are you dealing with a slow-loading website? Do you have heavy images on the webpages? Images serve to be essential to the overall look of your website. Statistics indicate that images make up over 60 percent of data that gets loaded onto the respective web pages. Whether you are running an e-commerce portal, fashion website, news site, travel portal, or blog, image optimization is crucial. 

When it comes to image optimization, it can be broadly categorized into three types:

  • Load faster
  • Load fewer
  • Load lighter

Why Optimize Image-heavy Websites?

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Images help a business engage visitors on their site; thus, minimizing bounce rates. However, they can still serve to be the major cause behind a website’s overall weak performance. Leading search engine crawlers like Bing & Google will penalize websites with a reduced ranking if they are image-heavy or slow-loading. The presence of heavy images can significantly increase the overall page loading time. 

How can websites display engaging images while still reducing image size and not suffering an overall loss in quality? In this post, we will help you learn a few ways to speed up your website featuring heavy images. 

Here are a few effective ways to optimize your image-heavy website:

  1. Resizing the Images

This is an important step. Resizing the images exactly as per the requirements on the website is a crucial consideration. It is not just about resizing the images in HTML or CSS. It is also about resizing the same on the server, and then transmitting the same on the browser.

  • For instance, you have an image with dimensions 4000X3000px for the specific product that you wish to list on the e-commerce website. However, on the website, you are required to show a smaller version of the given image. 
  • It can be an image of the dimension 200X300px to be made available on the product listing page. 
  • Additionally, you can consider an 80X1000px image dimension on the respective detail page of the product. 
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Ensure that you are scaling down the original image to the given dimensions before sending the same to the browser. The resized images tend to be smaller in comparison to the original image. As such, the webpages with these images will load faster in comparison to the ones with the original images.

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Resizing the Images

The best scenario could be having an image server that is capable of resizing the image in real-time to any dimension of your choice. This can be achieved by just changing the URL of the image. As such, whenever the image dimension is changed, all you are required to do is to specify the given dimension in the URL. 

  1. Optimizing the Images

The next step involved in speeding up an image-heavy website is selecting the right format and quality for every image on the website. GIF, PNG, and JPG are regarded as the most common image formats that are currently being used on the web. These image formats are well-suited for different use cases. 

WebP –another image format that is relatively new, aims at combining the best traits of the other available image formats. WebP tends to be around 30 percent smaller in size. It is also being supported on around 75 percent of modern browsers. 

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Optimizing the Images

Due to the immense benefits associated with improved performance, you should aim at delivering the images in the WebP image format whenever possible. On other browsers, you can consider delivering the original format of the image. 

  • Image Quality: Image quality can be referred to as the measure of how an image is going to appear visually. There happens to be a direct correlation between image size and image quality. Higher image quality is known to result in increased image size. As such, the overall website loading speed decreases. 
  • Image Compression: There are several image compression techniques that make use of the benefit in limitations of the human eye. There is limitation with respect to distinguishing minor changes in color information. As per the standards, an image quality level between 80 & 90 is regarded as an ideal condition. 
  1. Building for Mobile
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Building for Mobile

If you are currently running a website, it is crucial that you attend to implementing mobile responsiveness from a reliable web design firm. Stats suggest that around 60 percent of global traffic is known to come from mobile devices. 

Data reveals that mobile data speeds are known to be slower in comparison to broadband speeds. There are some regions in which mobile data connection turns out to be under-performing. Therefore, you should be extra careful with delivering appealing web experiences for mobile users.

When you have a responsive website for both mobile as well as the desktop, you can consider switching to responsive images. Here are some pointers to consider:

  • With the help of the responsive images tags, using the attributes like “sizes” or “srcset” of the image tag can provide the given browser with a myriad of options. The options are available for a single image along with the definition of different image sizes on multiple screens. 
  • The browser then goes forward with deciding the best size of the image for loading on a specific device. The selection is done from the given list on the basis of the dimensions and layout of the device that you would specify.
  • DPR: Another important factor that is needed to be considered with respect to mobile devices is the DPR or Device Pixel Ratio value. Most of the modern smartphone versions tend to feature high-density screens. These screens are capable of packing more pixels in a given square inch.

On a high-density screen, an image that appears fine across regular devices would appear slightly blurred. To resolve the same, you can consider loading 2x size of the image on screens having DPR 2. At the same time, you can also consider a 3x image size for screens having DPR 3 and the normal size of 1x on other devices. 

  1. Loading Fewer Resources

Even when you have optimized all the images, if you load too many of them, it will slow down the website and tend to negatively impact user experience. For instance, rather than loading images, you can plan to create gradients, buttons, and other elements with the help of CSS. 

What is Lazy Loading?

Another important technique is that you can make use of “lazy loading” for the images. The technique of lazy loading implies that you can  defer loading images that might not be required immediately. 

Usually, an image on your website that is not visible to visitors on the screen, can be loaded at a later point in time. It could be uploaded when the image is entering or about to enter the viewport. 

For instance, you should consider a situation in which you have 100 products on the website. If you wish to upload all 100 images of the products at the same time, then there will be a slowing down in the overall load time. The images will be competing for CPU resources and network bandwidth with other important items on pages like JS and CSS.  

With the help of lazy loading, you could consider uploading around 30 images to be initially visible to users. Therefore, when visitors browse your website, the web page would keep loading more images. This will help in improving the initial load time while improving the overall user experience at the same time. 

Using a Good CDN for Image Delivery

Now you have resolved the issue of image size and the number of images being loaded on a given page. After this, you will need to make sure that the images keep getting loaded on the website –and not too quickly. When you decrease the overall load time of the images on the website, it will help you in ensuring faster website loading speed. Eventually, this will lead to improved user experiences on the website. It will also help you to rank higher on the respective search engines. 

Role of CDNs for Image Optimization

CDNs or Content Delivery Networks are a set of caching or proxy servers that are distributed across the globe. While selecting the CDN, it is important to make sure that the CDN is supporting HTTP/2. It is an all-new protocol to deliver content on the web for speeding up the loading time significantly. HTTP/2 is known to make use of techniques like header compression, multiplexing, and server push for reducing the overall page load time. 

Checking the Website for Image-related Issues

There are specific tools available out there that help you to test the website for image-related issues specifically. One way is to make use of an advanced website analyzer. For instance, Google PageSpeed recommendations can help point out ways to further optimize images for loading on your site.  

Conclusion

There are several techniques for image optimization and performance improvement. It is important to reiterate that for images on your website, they should load faster, load lighter, and load fewer. 

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