If you run a WordPress web site or blog, I am going to assume that, of all media types, that you at least attach images to each of your posts. Well, did you know that… even if a page on your blog that has an image loads fast for you, it doesn’t mean it will load quickly for everyone? In your case, the image is most likely “cached” and is pulling from your computer’s hard drive rather than being downloaded from the Web.
I realize that there is no way I could know if you, the reader, run a slow WordPress site. But, I want you to know, that with all the whizbang speedy gonzales, fort knox features at my host, I thought I can take my focus off of speed and security for my WP blog. Turns out… “speed” still needed some help. Now I’m set, and want to share with you how I make my images load much faster for the visitors of the WordPress sites that I manage.
Images, in general, are fat, and not with a “ph”
Many images, by default, especially when taken with a camera, have a large file size. And that eats away at precious resources. First, it takes up hard drive space, and even if your host offers unlimited space, it’s still waste in many cases. Also, it uses bandwidth, for your host, and for the person that the image is being delivered to. Again, in many cases, that’s wasteful.
Now, if you don’t reduce, reuse and recycle in your everyday life, you probably won’t care about what I said about disk space and bandwidth, but there are other reasons.
User experience and SEO suffer when images are larger than they need to be
You can deliver the same exact image to your readers (quality-wise), but much much faster when you reduce the “size on disk” for the image. Plus, there are SEO advantages to faster page loads. Which means, all things being equal, the faster page will get higher rankings.
So, regardless if you are using a wicked fast host, with CDN (images are served from a server closer to your visitor’s home) and caching enabled, shrinking the size of images has it’s advantages.
Now, there are a couple things to consider before using any image reduction strategy. The “method” you use will yield different results if you are using “graphics” as opposed to photos taken with a camera.
If you use graphics primarily, then just take care to create small file sizes upon creation. If you use camera photos or leverage sites like Flickr to get your images, then an automated approach works best. The thing with photos though, you could lose the extra data that is embedded into the image. Sometimes a photo will store geographic information, what camera was used to take the pic, among other things I know very little about. Well, all that data takes up space, and is often is what is cleared using these optimization tools available to us. If you are OK with that, then read on.
Lots of image optimization solutions available to us
There used to be a free service called Smush.it by Yahoo! You were able to automatically (or manually) upload your images to their server and have them auto-optimized and returned back to you smaller. Yahoo! gave it up, a WordPress development company took over, and started charging for the service. Now, there are many tools available that sort of do the same thing, with some slight variances that, to me, aren’t relevant.
For me, I just want every new image uploaded to my WordPress blog to be “optimized” (smaller in file size with the same quality). Plus, in some cases, I want to bulk optimize previously uploaded images. Most of the tools available are “in the cloud”. They will transfer your images to their server for processing, then return them back (it’s not obvious this is going on, but either way, I am comfortable with it). Other services will run locally on your server, by executing some image optimization utilities. My server disables the ability for that to be done. So, for me, a cloud solution is the only solution.
A cost effective, or even free, solution for WordPress image optimization
After checking the features of serveral of the image optimization tools, and even trying out a couple… with my current budget, I decided to go with ShortPixel. I am very happy with the tool, and the service is great. Plus, the plans are very affordable. I bought a large package for $30 to process a year’s worth of images on a very busy news site, and will then switch to the $5 per month plan when my credits run out. With that said, I have a few sites where the free plan will suffice.
It’s really worth doing… optimizing images. And it’s one of the things on the web where it makes sense to automate the process. And now I’m not afraid to upload PNG (notoriously large file size) images either. Set it and forget it. Start with the free plan.
P.S. I am not compensated for this ShortPixel review, but I may bug them for some free credits to optimize all my past thumbnails as well 😉