In recent years, image optimization has been a hot topic for webmasters that are attempting to provide the best user experience possible without degrading the quality of images they use. In reality, the image format chosen by a website will typically depend on their own unique needs. In this article, we will examine why choosing the best image for your website is important and help you determine which is right for you.
Why is Image Format Important?
As previously stated, the image format you choose will help enormously when attempting to speed up your website’s loading times. As more and more people continue to access websites primarily with a mobile device, websites have to have the potential to keep up and give them an optimal experience. In fact, page speed is now a known raking signal by Google, This means that if your page loads slowly because of large image files, you likely aren’t ranking as high as you could in the search engines.
There are many different factors you will need to consider when choosing your image type and they can directly impact the file size you end up with. For instance, does your image need to have transparency to fit the overall design? Is there unnecessary detail being included or extensive ranges of colors? All of these factors can hinder your efforts to succeed at optimizing your images and ultimately make your page slower.
What Should You Consider When Exporting Images?
The average size of an entire web page is generally around 2mb. Anything higher than this and your mobile users could be struggling to load the page fast enough and leaving out of frustration. To ensure your website works appropriately for their needs, it is important to ensure all images included won’t push your webpage over that limit. If you are using more than one image on the page, this can quickly become a problem if you don’t choose the right file types.
In essence, choosing the right image format is a numbers game. However, you still want to ensure that the images aren’t too degraded and hindering the visual appeal of your website. Now that we have a basis for the target file size, let’s take a look at the different file formats that are commonly used on a website and some of the reasons they are the right fit for certain applications.
While PNG images have become popular in recent years among web designers for the qualities they possess, this image format was originally created to replace GIFs due to licensing issues. One of the biggest strengths of the portable network graphics (PNG) file type is that the file type doesn’t result in any image quality degradation. While this can result in a larger file size, PNGs can also provide transparency or gradient-like effects perfectly when rendered when needed.
Joint Public Experts Group, or JPEG as it is commonly known, is one of the most used file formats in existence. In fact, it’s so common that both digital and cell phone cameras will often use it as a standard output format. JPEGs utilize millions of different colors to produce vivid images that look great while remaining relatively small in size. However, JPEGs are only used for still images and lose transparency and animation properties when saved.
Although GIF files are commonly used for memes that require animation, the file type doesn’t really serve much use these days. One of the biggest reasons for this is that the PNG image file format was created to replace it and exceed consumer expectations. GIF files utilize a limited color palette and result in incredibly large file sizes if they surpass just a few frames. For this reason, using a WebM or MP4 file will likely be more beneficial.
Developed by Google, (Yes! That Google!) the WebP file type seeks to bring in the best elements of both PNG and JPEG files and combine them into one super image format. With two different WebP formats available to choose which you want to most mimic, this file type is around 26% smaller than a JPEG or PNG when rendered while still retaining the image qualities expected from the original file type. For this reason, many web developers that use the file type are calling it one of the best-kept secrets for image optimization online.
So Which Image Format is Best?
As you can see, the various image types serve their own unique purposes and what works for one webpage may not work for another. Although the WebP format shows promise, it isn’t to a point where it is widely accepted by all CMS platforms. However, as this technology continues to grow, it will likely become the preferred image file format used for Google’s algorithm. In reality, you will likely be using a variety of these image types on your website. As long as you stay under 2mb per webpage, you will continue to reap the benefits.
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