Experienced bloggers know that compelling and engaging content doesn’t solve the traffic generation issue on its own because visitors are different, and so are their judging criteria to as which website offers better content than the other. One thing all visitors mind, however, are images that load slowly, a problem bloggers often can’t solve because they prefer to use high-resolution impacting imagery.
The better quality an image has, the slower it will load, and the more affected visitors will be. We’ve all had a similar experience and understand the frustration it can cause, which is how most websites end up in the forget-about-it pile despite their great posts. What you may not know is that today’s internet connection and advanced mobile optimization do bring this issue to an end, and there is absolutely no justification to optimize your images.
The first thing to do is to eliminate other factors that may slow your website down so that you will estimate the scale of the risk slow loading images is causing to it. If you have a large website with hundreds of quality images, then there is no doubt that you should start looking for a surefire solution to reduce their size or leave them there without compromising your content’s quality.
Once images are optimized, the website will start loading faster, and your SEO rankings will reach levels you never thought depended on loading times. A bonus in the case is that you get to save a lot of hosting server space. These are the plugins that can help you do this:
We start with WP Smush because we believe this is the cutest, easiest-to-use and best-performing plugin you could possibly use to compress images. It is suitable for PNG, JPEG, and GIF files, each of them up to 32MB. As a matter of fact, WP Smush can literally smuch even larger files, in case you have access to a dedicated system for the purposed, or have compressed and uploaded bulks of images instead of a single one.
On top of that, WP Smush delivers automated service and compresses images as soon as you upload them to your post. You can integrate it with WP Retina 2x to improve the display quality even for tiniest files, or with NextGEN Gallery to ensure all formats are compatible.
This is another automation plugin that optimizes all sorts of images while they’re being uploaded to a WordPress websites. The catch in the case is optimizing previously uploaded files, or converting images to the smallest size possible, regardless of their format. Graphic professionals will certainly appreciate the fact that such handy reductions are available for PNG files as well.
When it comes to losing optimization, CW Image Optimizer does a considerably good job as well. The same as in the previous case, you get to optimize previously attached images, or use the WP Smush base of the service which guarantees access to Linux little utils optimization widgets. Explained in plain English, this means that images won’t leave your server regardless of how you’ve optimized them, the same not being available in the case of Yahoo! Inc based WPMU DEV plugins.
Unlike our previous examples, Imsanity is for free, but that doesn’t compromise its resizing capacity. What Imsanity is known for is its ability to resize images to their maximal quality, height, and width, or to convert BMP images into JPEG before in order to scale them.
PB Responsive Images is another decent representative of the image optimization family whose features remind of the ones offered by the Responsive Images Community Group (w3.org). Its smooth application, compliance with optimization standards, and the CSS media query and SLIR query pair bases provide unparalleled flexibility for making queries combinations. What is more, the plugin comes packed with customization shortcodes applied individually, per image, post, or layout.
As we already mention, the basic rationale behind images optimization is to make our website SEO friendly, which means that we have to tag pictures, and set ALT and TITLE attributes for each of them. SEO Friendly Images can solve this problem for us: it will depict the right ALT (image description) and TITLE (the tooltip that appears after the user has hovered over the image) attributes, and attach them with minimal human interference.
Lazy Load is lazy in the sense that it won’t require you to configure it. The plugin uses jQuery sonar which means that it only loads images visible above the fold. What is interesting to know that the coding amalgamation for this product was originally written by the WordPress.com VIP team, and modified by Jake Goldman (consultancy 10up) and the TechCrunch Redesign Team.
Speaking of ‘lazy’ plugins, we simply couldn’t surpass BJ Lazy Load, which helps load all images and thumbnails you need (even iFrames and Gravatars), and use a handy placeholder to adjust content. What is really interesting about this plugin is that it is simple (you can customize it to your desired performance with few clicks, skip images with classes, and replace posts with the placeholder) and complex at the same time (it performs operations such as automated serving of hiDPI retina-ready screens and hiDPI images, and scales those automatically to make your website’s design more responsive).
The Kraken Image Optimizer uses its own APIs to optimize PNG, JPEG, and GIF files and can be used for free by simply opening an account on their official website (Kraken.io). There, you will receive your own secret APIs and keys, and use those on as many WordPress installations as you may be running.
Kraken Image Optimizer default compression profile can be described as ‘intelligent lossy’, meaning that it will preserve the quality of your content intact even after a drastic modification. Nevertheless, you get to adjust settings yourself, meaning that you can even disable this option, or set specific values for certain image formats (JPEG quality from 25 to 99, for instance).
Many developers believe ShortPixel is an undisputed leader of image optimization which on top of that, has the cutest interface to work with. Its strongest side is compression and automated optimization, which can be seen by drastically shortened loading times right upon installation and activation. However, many users dislike it because they don’t have the possibility to configure automated optimization as in the case of other plugins.
In case flexibility is not that much of an issue, consider ShortPixel for powerful bulk optimization and individual image compression, where all you have to do is to open the Media Library, choose an image for compression and open it in the List View format, and use the Optimize Now button to perform all desired modifications.
Plus, ShortPixel is one of the rare plugins that make it possible to choose between lossy and lossless compressions but uses lossy by default in case settings are not adjusted. There is no such image type or thumbnail it can’t handle: you can even use it to maximize image resolution, remove/preserve EXIF data, and finally store all uploaded images in a special folder from where you can proceed with modifications.
If looking for a tool that reduces images drastically, but doesn’t compromise their quality, Imagify Image Optimizer has you covered. It is one of the webmasters’ favorite tools for undisturbed loading, and once bloggers are ready to pay a fortune for so that they will later save on updating and bandwidth. Long story short, Imagify is a reasonable investment.
Another distinctive advantage of this plugin is that once you enable it, all uploaded images are transferred to a special media library where all optimization and compression takes place. It works just as well with thumbnails and retina ready files and has a special Bulk Optimizer feature used to save time and rescale previously uploaded images.
Overall, Imagify offers three different compression levels: Normal, Aggressive, and Ultra. The normal one is actually the lossless one which uses simple compression algorithms, while the other two complete the ‘lossy’ part of the job, namely restoring original images, retrieving uncompressed versions, and much more.
Some designers and critics go as far as naming image optimization plugins as the ‘driving power’ behind WordPress. This CMS has way too many outstanding add-ons that can be given a similar title, but image optimization plugins certainly rank high on the list. With fast-loading images, every website can become memorable and offer an exceptional experience to its visitors, while without them no compelling content can be enough to keep visitors interested in it. Delays are annoying in all forms and shapes, and we know this first-hand. Therefore, optimize imagery before you’ve considered any other modification of WordPress’s basic functionality.
Obviously, it won’t be an easy and instant process, as there are many details that must be considered. Even in cases where bandwidth is not an issue, and the website can sustain high-quality imagery, you have to minimize loading times for the sake of users wth poor Internet connections.