Optimizing Images For The Web

Optimizing Images For The Web

Now more then ever websites are graphically driven, from photo blogs to graphics used to help tell stories, websites have more pages, and more pages with images on them.  Properly optimizing images for the web generally means reducing the file size down as small as possible without negatively impacting the quality of the image.  Doing so has two advantages – reducing bandwidth and disk space on your web server and giving your visitor the best possible experience while viewing your site.

Starting with the reduction in bandwidth and disk space on your web server through image optimization is probably one of the most overlooked aspects of preparing photos for the web.  It’s also one place you could save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on hosting fees.  Most all web hosts sell plans that focus on two key features: disk space, or how much space you’re allow to use on their server to hold the contents of your page and bandwidth, the amount of data transferred from the web server to the visitors computer system (compounded).  If your web host allows 100mb of disk space, you could only load one hundred 1mb photos on it, with no room for any other actual HTML pages to build your site upon.  Additionally, if you displayed all 100 images at once on a single page, each time that page loaded for someone it would eat 100mb of bandwidth.  If your hosting plan only allows for 1gb of bandwidth, you can only have 100 visitors (100mb * 100 visitors = 1000mb or 1gb) before you either experience overage fees or your site is shut down.  A 1mb file in terms for what’s needed to properly display on the internet is huge, in fact the standard still exists that even large full screen photographs should be reduced down to about 100kb in file size, or 1/10th the 1mb example.  In this example, reducing your files down to 100kb you could fit 1,000 images on your 100mb of hosting or ten times the data.  Because the file sizes are smaller, bandwidth will also be reduced significantly.   Too many people don’t spend the time to properly optimize their photos for the web and in turn over-pay for larger hosting plans they don’t need.

The second and just as important reason for optimizing your images for the web is to give the visitor the best possible experience.  While few people are still on dial-up connections, the speed and quality of their high-speed connections varies wildly across the world.  By nature, Internet surfers have an extremely short attention span, forcing them to wait while your images or graphics load is painful and often causes them to leave your site before all the content is loaded.  They are also more likely to view fewer pages because the site takes too long for them to navigate around.  In the end, you’ll have less traffic and lower chances of conversion rates.

Popular software to optimize images for the web is the industry standard Photoshop, however a free, open source alternative called GIMP is also very popular, as is the image browser Irfanview.  While Photoshop will give you the most flexibility and GIMP mimics much of Photoshop, Irfanview is a powerful and free tool to quickly resize images and even has a built in batch processor.

When you’re laying out your site take the time to optimize the images, it will save you money and keep visitors on your site longer with a more enjoyable experience.