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How to Optimize Your Images in WordPress (and the Best WordPress Plugins for that!)

How to Optimize Your Images in WordPress (and the Best WordPress Plugins for that!)

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Looking for a good image optimization plugin? This article will present you with some of the best plugins you can choose

In November 2019 Google announced they are planning on introducing a new way to identify slower websites by placing a badge.

google badge speed

According to an article from Search Engine Journal, the badge will appear before the website even starts loading, possibly prompting the users to abandon the site in question and go for a more optimized site.

This doesn't really come as a surprise, considering Google has been promoting fast website speed for years now. They know slow websites are extremely annoying from user's point of view, so it's understandable that they push for faster loading speed.

We've already covered several aspects of speeding up your website in this article, however, today we'd like to focus on a specific one and that's optimizing your images in order to improve your site's speed.

How is optimizing images relevant to speed?

You are likely aware of the relationship between website speed and optimized images, but just in case we're briefly touching on the subject.

The size of the images, like any file, can be measured in megabytes. While the simple webpage containing just HTML code can be under 100kb sometimes, images and additional scripts (like Java) usually are way heavier.

A typical image file can start from a couple of hundred kb and go all the way up to 10-20 MB in the case of high-quality, high definition photos.

Thus, the link between images and loading speed is purely mathematical; the bigger its size is, the more time it will take to load.

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Of course, no one wants to post articles with no visual media; today's users are already quite used to visual stimulation and leaving images out of your written content is unthinkable. So, what is the solution?

Optimizing your images as a way to speed up your WordPress site

Based on what we discussed so far, the best way to approach this problem is simply to optimize your images by compressing them.

Of course, you can use either Photoshop or online solutions to do so, but our article today will explore WordPress plugins that do this for you, simplifying the process and lightening up your workload for you.

Keep in mind that Images can slow down your website due to other reasons too! To get the best possible results try and follow these quick steps:

  • Keep your images in simpler and lighter formats, like JPG, PNG, .GIF and the recently introduced formats WEBP, HEIC and AVIF. If you don't know what the latter ones are, here you can read a well-written article on the matter.
  • Make sure you are using the proper size when it comes to scaled images for specific positions on your site. If the placement requires a thumbnail size (say 100x100px) don't use a 500x500px image.
  • Accelerate additionally your WordPress trough the usage of caching plugins, CDN and caching on a server level.

1. WP Smush

WP smush is probably one of the most well-known plugins when it comes to image optimization. Developed as part of the WPMU DEV portfolio, the plugin has a paid counterpart which is available within the stack the offer as a SaaS solution.

wp smush

The entire process of optimizing your images happens on WP Smush severs, which guarantees loading time of your site will not be affected by the optimization process. This is also a good prevention of a server crash in case of an overload.

The free version of WP Smush is already able to compress your images without visible loss of quality (lossless compression). This is especially important for sites who host high-definition photos and place importance on them, such as fashion and beauty sites, cooking blogs etc.

It compresses images automatically every time you upload, which saves a lot of time and trouble.

smush plugin automatic and bulk compression

The thing you need to know though is that lossless compression doesn’t reduce the size as much. Also, another thing you need to keep in mind with the free version is that there is a limitation of the file size - you can’t optimize images over 5mb (it was previously 1MB).

This will likely suffice for most of your images, however, if you are using extremely large photos you need to keep this in mind, and if you can’t lower the size, you should probably consider buying the pro version.

As mentioned above, the other advantage of the paid version is that it will allow you to choose between lossy and lossless compression. The lossy compression offers up to 60% of size reduction (although, obviously there will be some loss of quality)

Finally, keep in mind that the plugin will store your original images (untouched), so in case you want to use your original, high-quality image on your site, you will always have a copy of it. This, however, is once again a paid feature. If you decide to go for the paid version, you may find that the price of $49 per month is quite high, but keep in mind this is a bundle price for their entire portfolio, so my recommendation is to simply check the selection of plugins they offer. If you find that you can use more than 2-3 of their plugins, I would say that the price is definitely worth it.

2.ShortPixel

Our option #2 - ShortPixel - is also quite a popular image optimization plugin.

If you install it on your WordPress, you will discover that the plugin is rather lightweight plugin, yet it comes packed with features. Setting it up is quite easy. In order to install it, simply go to the WordPress repository within your site and type Shorpixel, you’ll be able to get it directly.

Once you install it, it will require and API key, but don’t worry - this version is absolutely free, all you need to provide is your email address (you can get an API key here). Alternatively, you can also get an API directly from its own admin panel.

shortpixel plugin

Shortpixel has a tabbed panel for easier and user-friendly navigation, which is rather nice. The free version will provide you with most of the features you will need. The catch? You can only optimize up to 100 images.

For some projects, like blogs with fewer images or simple informational sites, this can do the trick, but for the majority of the sites this number will likely not suffice.

The good news is though the paid plans start quite reasonably at only 4.99$ per month, for which price you will get 5000 images. If you want to see the other plans they have, check out their pricing here

Also, if you refer ShortPixel to your friend then for each referral, you will get an extra 100 image compression per month.

Now, let’s take a brief look at the great array of features I mentioned. Unlike WP smush, ShortPixel has no limitation of the file size, which is really amazing (even for the free version). Another difference you’ll find with our previous entry is the option to choose between lossless, glossy, and lossy compression.

You have probably heard already about lossless, and lossy compression, but perhaps not about glossy, so let’s go over it.

Glossy compression is the logical middle ground falls between lossless and lossy compression. It generally compress files more than lossless compression, yet less than the lossy one. The same goes for quality - the quality of the compressed images is a bit better than the one provided by lossy compression, but less optimal that lossless.

Overall, Glossy compression is ideal for photography blogs, because it will save a lot of space considering the vast number of image they upload, yet the photos will still be relatively high quality.

ShortPixel can compress both old and newly uploaded images on your site with a simple click. Actually, the new images are automatically optimized when you upload them, so no additional work is required there (this is one of the biggest advantages of the plugins - almost no manual work).

The plugin is able to convert PNG images to JPEG in order to save additional space (and it’s also set to optimize PDF documents). As with WP Smush, the images will be compressed on ShortPixel’s cloud servers, thus preventing issues on your own site/server.

The original images are saved in a separate folder and restoration of them in case you need it is easy and trouble-free.

Finally, one last good point - you can integrate Cloudflare with ShortPixel in case you are using a CDN.

3.EWWW Image Optimizer

EWWW Image Optimizer is another popular and well-written plugin that has been around for years.

ewww image optimizer

While it’s true that the interface have somewhat of an old-fashion look, with the release of WordPress 5.3 it seems to fit quite well. The WP interface seems simplified (clearly, in search of achieving better accessibility) and the minimalistic admin of EWWW doesn’t look so outdated anymore.

The compress and resize are already set to 5% and 20%, respectivelly. This isn’t that bad, yet modifying these parameters will require a paid license. To be honest, the $9 they ask for on a monthly basis will prvide a huge amount of benefits.

One of the most notable premium options is the ability to transform your images in .webp - the latest and most loved by Google image format. The JS/CSS Minification and Compression is also included in their Easy IO (image optimization). CDN and Lazy load are also included; all of this seems to be specifically designed to make your site as fast as possible when it comes to anything image-related.

The Advanced tab will provide you with several additional options, although, to be honest, most of these seems to be unnecessary (like scheduled optimization and choosing specific folders)

You can also resize images in bulk, as in set a max width and height, and run an automatic optimization. While this can be useful, in terms of scaling (remember how I mentioned scaling at the beginning) it would seem that you can’t really use this as it sets limitation across all images.

So if you set 1500px width, for example, any image below that will simply be scaled as usual. You can still use it to constrain images with really unreasonable dimensions if you have a lot of big photos, and don’t have the time to manually resize everything.

The WebP tab is really a gem, and the conversion seems to be extremely user-friendly. Considering the format is slowly making its way into the top 3 lightest formats, this option is definitely a huge plus for the plugin.

Overall, very nice plugin, though some limitations can bug you.

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