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Images Might Be Slowing Down Your Business Website. Here’s How to Fix It

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  • Digital Team 

Images can make a huge difference to a website’s appearance and user experience. They can show your products in ways that make users likely to click, show your team so people trust your business, or be used as decorative items that increase interactions and conversion. However, they can also cause your business website to be slow. If you are experiencing long load times, you should check your images and optimize them to fix the issue. In this article, we will look at different tips and techniques you can use to fix this issue or talk to your web developer about.

Optimizing Your Images

This is where you are likely to see the most impact. The first image optimization you do should always be to resize your images before uploading and using them on your website. There are two main reasons for doing this.

Your website needs to load the images in full before resizing them to fit the “containers” where they will go on your website. For example, you might have a 1280px by 720px image but need it to fit in a space that is 600px wide. The browser will load the full image and then resize it to fit. This takes crucial resources and time that both impact your load times.

Also, larger images are often heavier. A 1280px image is likely to be much bigger in file size than a 600px image. Resizing it to the correct dimensions reduces the file size and can yield considerable load time savings.

Compress Your Images

You may need some images, such as product images and images of your team, to be of the highest quality possible. However, you do not need others to be of high quality, such as those used as decorative or background elements. You can compress these to reduce their file size.

This is not to say that you cannot compress crucial images to reduce load times. Lossless compression has been around for a long time and yields a much smaller size without significantly reducing the image quality. If you do not have access to compression tools or do not know how to do this yourself, you can rely on CDNs with these options built in.

Options like Image Stack from Gcore allow you to choose the quality level and then the system delivers compressed images to the end user. An added advantage of doing this is that these files are hosted on a CDN (Content Delivery Network) that serves them to the user from a server closest to them.

The shorter distance from the server to the user’s browser can lead to an additional reduction in load times.

Choose a Modern Image Format

Many websites use JPEG and PNG file formats that have been the standard in the industry for a long time. JPG images are a better choice for photos due to their higher quality, while PNGs are better for graphics with sharp lines and flat colors.

Modern file formats provide these benefits and ensure a high image quality in smaller file sizes. AVIF and WebP file formats have become popular for these reasons.

If you want to go even further, you can encode your images in base 64. This format gives you a string of characters browsers can understand and interpret to create an image. Because this is code and not full images, it does not impact page loads, leading to faster websites. Also, Base64 images reduce HTTP requests, speeding up loading times.

Optimize Your Image Delivery

In addition to the dimensions and file size, how you deliver your images can impact load times. Instead of loading all images at once, you should implement lazy loading on your website. This is something you might need to talk to your developer about so they can implement it properly.

Lazy loading entails deferring the loading of below-the-fold content (content that does not need to be visible on the initial load) until the user scrolls down the page. This helps you prioritize loading the images the user sees first and can reduce bandwidth usage if a user does not scroll down the whole page.

Another delivery optimization option is using responsive images. Modern browsers support responsive image techniques like “picture” and “srcset” that deliver different images depending on a device’s screen size and capabilities.

For example, you can use them to deliver a larger, high-quality image that is likely to be a bigger file size for desktop users and a smaller, lighter image for mobile users.

Use CSS Sprites

This is an older technique that is still invaluable for the modern web. If your website uses numerous small images, typically as icons or avatars, you will need to send numerous HTTP requests to load them all. However, you can combine these images into a single file and load the right ones in the right place using CSS.

If you do not want to do this, you can also use SVG sprites. These combine several SVGs into a single one and allow developers to use IDs to load the right ones in the right place.

A Word About Metadata

Images typically come with embedded metadata. This data tells you everything you need to know about the image and can include information like the camera used to shoot a photograph, the creation and edit dates, the software used to edit the image, and much more. The issue with metadata, even though it can be useful in many cases, is that it is extra data that leads to bigger file sizes.

You should consider stripping out unnecessary data embedded in your image files to reduce file sizes and ensure faster load times. There are innumerable online and offline tools for this, some with additional features like image resizing and compression so you only have to use one tool for your image optimization needs.

You can significantly reduce image-related load times using the tips above to deliver a much faster website. Doing this also improves user experience and can lead to a higher rank on search engine result pages. While you can implement any of these changes yourself, it is better to leave some of them to a developer who knows how to handle them and might have additional tips to reduce page load further.

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