High-Quality, Optimized Images for Fast Web Pages
You have just returned from an amazing trip to see the giant coastal redwoods of Northern California. You’re ready to blog about it. But the photographs are huge! Will large, high-resolution images overextend a website’s page load speeds? The short answer: Yes. But there are several easy solutions.
Images must be adapted to the online environment. It’s important to avoid jazzing up web pages with oversized, high-resolution pictures at the expense of reasonable page load times. Striking a balance between image quality and web-ready formatting is the key to a professional-quality online gallery. With this tip in mind, here are a few ways to SEO optimize images for efficient page load times and happy search engine spiders.
Before rushing to a desktop application like Photoshop to resize high-quality photos, consider online “lossless” services like JPEG mini and Yahoo’s Smush.It. These free tools instantly optimize images, cleanly and without loss of quality. A user doesn’t have to be an old hand at optimization or sacrifice hard drive space to showcase beautiful images efficiently.
For webmasters with a working knowledge of scripting languages (or the money to outsource it), dynamic graphics are an option for custom-optimized media. User requests can intelligently modify any image property, ensuring seamless quality and enabling optimized effects uniquely tailored for each visitor. ImageMagick is an excellent open-source API for creating dynamic images.
While the size of files allows faster responses to server requests, mere compression does not actually reduce the total number of requests, the most important component of page load times. Loading speeds are directly correlated with the number of http requests. Too many images means page load lags and unhappy visitors.
CSS sprites are a clever way to bundle many graphics into one image file, slashing http requests to a fraction of the original number. Facebook uses sprites to load the graphic background on each of its pages. Making a sprite, or grouping, of images on a page will consolidate http requests and reduce the overall file size. As a bonus, sprites make organizing a media collection a snap.
Just create a new image for the sprite, as wide as the widest image and as tall as the combined height of all images, plus X pixels where X=the number of image files.
If you blinked in confusion at that last instruction, please disregard it and instead navigate to either SpriteMe.org or SpritePad.wearekiss.com for your free and user-friendly sprite creation needs.