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How to Optimize Images For WordPress Websites

Images are a critical part of most websites. Unfortunately, images can also increase your page size and significantly slow down your load times.  This is frustrating to visitors and can lower your page ranking with search engines like Google. In fact, if a page doesn’t load in less than 3 seconds, most visitors will abandon your site and move on elsewhere.

In addition, having a lot of images will use up more space on your server and increase your site’s bandwidth significantly. This is unlikely to be a problem in the early days of your website’s life, however it could increase your hosting costs over time, unless you are hosting with a company that does not charge for disks space or bandwidth like Sunny HQ.

The simple solution: optimizing your images. Image optimization is just a fancy way of saying you should save your images in a web friendly format. Image optimization is critical to making sure your site is performing at its best.

In this article, we’ll show you how you can optimize the images on your WordPress website to help your visitors have a hassle-free experience and make sure your site isn’t penalized by search engines for having slow load times.

File Format JPEG or PNG – Optimize Images for WordPress

Graphic applications allow you to save images in a number of different file formats. The best formats for websites are JPEG and PNG.

Use a JPEG for photographs as they have a high color count. This format uses special compression in order to reduce file size while not affecting the clarity of the image. Use PNGs for images such as screenshots, illustrations and website design images like icons and buttons. It uses a lossless compression technique to maintain a high quality image. Steer clear of using PNGs for photos as it will result in a very large file size.

Optimize Images WordPress - cats in Photoshop
Optimize Images WordPress using Photoshop

The other format that you’ll see used quite a lot is GIF. GIFs are well suited for lower quality images with just a few colors. The GIF format is widely used on the internet for small, simple animations.

Size Your Images Correctly Before Uploading

Before we get to the optimization process, make sure you size your images before you upload. With the proliferation of digital cameras and smart phones, photo sizes are pretty huge today.

Example: an iPhone 7 takes a 12 megapixel image, roughly 4,000 pixels by 3,000 pixels.  Most desktop displays are around 1,680 pixels by 1,050 pixels (yes there are bigger screens, but hold your horses.) Best practice for website design shows sites being design for optimal widths around 1,400 pixels.  So if you upload images that are 4,000 pixels wide, you are already starting with an image nearly 300% of what you need.

Optimize Images WordPress - cats in Photoshop
Optimize Images WordPress – Resize your images pixel resolution

Wanna geek out on image sizes and pixels? Read more here…

You can let WordPress do this as described below or use a application to do it before hand. To keep it simple, I resize nearly all images at the largest size the site needs.  You can do this by measuring the width of your site.  In the above example, I would resize and the images to 1,400px by 1,050px.  I have optimized thousands of websites by only resizing the images and resulted in an average reduction in size by 400%. This is an important step for optimize images WordPress.

JPEG or PNG What is Better?

There are two schools of thought regarding when to optimize your images – before you upload to WordPress or after.  While there may be some circumstances when one is better than the other, in general, either is fine. You can even choose a hybrid method if you already have a bunch of images on your site to optimize, then moving to the “before” method for all new images.  To optimize images before you upload, you will need Adobe Photoshop or the like (discussed below.) If you plan to do all the optimization after uploading, there are some great plugins that will do this for you.

Optimizing Your Images Before Uploading To Your Website

WordPress has a neat thumbnail feature that automatically creates three different sizes of any image you upload. You can find this feature in the WordPress admin area under settings/media. Keep in mind that this does NOT optimize the image, it only changes the pixel dimensions.

You can adjust the thumbnail sizes as you see fit. For example, you can configure WordPress to create a thumbnail 150×150 pixel image, a medium 300×200 pixel image and a large 600×600 pixel image. More than likely this was set correctly by your developer, but make sure you review the settings.

Most graphical editing applications allow you to adjust the quality of an image for use on the web. In Photoshop, the option is called “Save for Web and Devices”.

Photoshop allows you to choose the file type and quality of the image. At the bottom left side of the interface, you can see the details of the image file size with your chosen settings.

There are many great graphic editing applications available for optimizing WordPress images. GIMP is a good start. I also recommend checking out these:

  • ImageOptim (MAC) I Love this one!  Super simple to use and allows you to optimize tons of images all at once, including group renaming.
  • Image Compressor (Web based – works on any OS)
Optimize Images WordPress
ImageOptim (MAC) – See the huge savings in file size

All of the above are free to download and use. While there are many premium applications available for a fee, I don’t see any real advantages to using them over these free alternatives.

Optimizing Your Images After Uploading To Your Website

There are lots of plugins available that optimize images WordPress after they’ve been uploaded to your site. With well over two million downloads, one of the more popular optimization plugins for WordPress is Yahoo’s WP Smush.it. This plugin allows you to strip meta data from JPEGs, optimize the compression, convert GIF files to PNG and remove unused images. It’s also compatible with many of the more popular media library plugins, such as:

Alternatives to WP Smush.it include:

Final Thoughts on Optimizing Images

To restate the obvious, optimizing your WordPress images is super important. Optimizing your images can reduce your site’s page load times – improving your visitors’ browsing experience and in the process, help improve your page rankings with Google and other search engines.

As always, I want to point out that the easiest way to make sure all this is handled is to choose Sunny HQ!  Image optimization is included with all our WordPress Hosting and Maintenance plans.  We think your time is better spent focusing on your business.  Give us a call.