Optimizing Images: Greater Benefits Than at First Glance
As a key component of every functional website, pictures are essential to captivating visitors, as well as promoting a business or product. Providing a visual stimulus is an excellent way to supplement website text while engaging readers, but it is not as simple as snapping several photos and inserting them on various site pages. There are multiple factors that must be adjusted in order to ensure that images both meet the standards of digital etiquette and will not affect the overall performance of a website.
If taking photos with a digital camera, as in the case of restaurant premises, menu dishes, staff members, or other products, handle the device well and be aware of all its features so that the final images come out clear and detailed. If searching for pictures on the Internet, attempt to find the highest quality ones available. It is important to start working with the most detailed images possible so as to minimize the quality lost during optimization, the process of compressing a photo to make it "web ready."
Once all the desired pictures have been either imported or saved to the computer's hard drive, any unneeded details should be removed by cropping. Then, optimization can begin. It is necessary to have a photo editing software or application to carry out this process; a popular yet expensive option is Photoshop, but most computers already have a basic photo editor installed. There are also a multitude of alternative free programs online.
The choice between all of these options depends mainly on personal preferences, needs, and level of experience. After an appropriate program has been selected, it can be used to optimize images according to general guidelines for web readiness, which center on several technical terms that are vital to understand.
Resolution is the amount of detail that can be seen in a picture, and it is measured in dots per inch, or dpi—the more dots there are per inch, the higher the level of detail. While anywhere from 300dpi to 1200dpi is more than satisfactory for printing, computer monitors are only capable of displaying images in the range of 72dpi to 100dpi. An image with a decreased resolution has less quality, but it is also has a decreased file size, which is why images optimized for the web should have low resolutions; they load more quickly on websites due to their smaller file size.
File size measures the number of kilobytes (KB) or megabytes (MB) that a file takes up on a hard drive. When visitors view images on websites, the actual image file is transferred by their computers over their Internet connections. Naturally, larger files will transfer more slowly. While this in itself is annoying, large files can potentially consume a visitor's bandwidth allowance, which controls how much data they can upload or download during a given day or month.
Therefore, images meant to be displayed on a website should be as small in byte size as possible, especially if a web page will contain more than one picture. Generally, a high-quality photo taken with a digital camera has a file size of between 5MB and 10MB. The ideal size for a web-optimized image, however, is under 300KB, with 5KB to 50KB being an acceptable range. To check file size, the file must be located on the hard drive and then right-clicked to access its properties from a menu. If the file size is too large, the easiest way to reduce it is by reducing display size in a photo editing program.
Display size is the size of an image as it appears on a screen. Unlike printed photos, height and width are measured in pixels as opposed to inches. Images on a web page should be displayed at a size that complements the surrounding text and material, rather than overwhelms it. Since photos taken with a digital camera are likely to have overly large file sizes, they end up with display sizes wider than a computer's monitor. Display size can be checked by opening a file in a photo editing program and locating the option from the menu that relates to image size, which tells how wide and tall the image is in pixels.
The least difficult way to decrease display size is to input the optimal number of pixels for either height or width in the appropriate box and have the program automatically adjust the other setting to preserve the image's original proportions. Ideal display size for web images varies, since it depends on the nature of the accompanying text, content, and pixel width of the page being posted to. As a general rule of thumb, an average blog entry is about 600 pixels wide, and it is recommended that images embedded in posts should be kept under 350 pixels wide. Header images are almost never wider than 1000 pixels, with 180 pixels being an acceptable height. These guidelines can be tailored accordingly for other types of websites.
Once an image has had both its file size and display size modified, it must be saved in a proper file format before being posted on the web. There are three file formats currently considered to be web ready: GIF, JPG, and PNG. GIF is an older format that is primarily used for animated GIFs and simple line drawings or logos, since GIF files can only handle 256 colors. JPG and PNG are newer file formats that can handle millions of colors and are used mainly for photos. PNG, however, is also good for images with clean lines and edges, such as line drawings and some screenshots, but it has larger file sizes, meaning PNG files take longer to load on websites.
All image editing programs will be able to export or save files in these formats, which requires selecting the appropriate format from a menu when saving a file. Depending on the selection, the file name will be given an extension of .gif, .jpg, or. png. It is best not to alter these extensions, because being able to quickly identify file type is important when uploading images to the web.
Additionally, every image should be given a proper title. Usually, images are given a default file name, which is frequently a random and unintelligible string of digits and letters assigned by a digital camera. These default names should be changed to accurate titles that are formatted correctly. File names should be in lower case, should have no spaces or punctuation other than hyphens, and should not be excessively lengthy. Describing the content of an image with the title is not only helpful in easy identification, but it also will boost SEO, or search engine optimization. Image titles that include relevant keywords can aid in improving the ranking of a page or website in search engine results.
Since the process for optimizing web images does necessitate a certain amount of digital literacy, it may seem somewhat time-consuming and challenging at first. However, learning this process by regularly following the guidelines outlined above is invaluable; becoming familiar with the skills has benefits that extend beyond merely the image editor.
Web ready photos play a large role in heightening website traffic. When big images take too much time loading, impatient website visitors are given an opportunity to exit a site in frustration and move on to the next competitor in the list of search results. Making sure that a site loads as fast as possible by formatting images will serve to both increase the amount of time visitors spend on a site and their level of engagement. Also, the more slowly a page loads, the lower Google will rank it in search results. Not only do large images lead to visitors quitting a site too early, but they also make a site less visible and harder to find by other web users.
Properly formatting pictures will also improve the aesthetic qualities of a website. Visitors' opinions of sites are actually influenced by how the sites appear, so it is crucial to ensure that images do not overpower any surrounding text, in order to give a more balanced and pleasing look to a webpage. Wider images may also run over the sidebars of sites, which contributes to horizontal scrolling that disrupts the flow of text and proves very annoying to most visitors.
Making photos web ready is a step that not everyone takes before posting to sites, which is why optimization of images should be taken advantage of. When formatting guidelines are not followed, it really is apparent to website visitors, who do not even have to make a choice between sites with optimized images and those without. Site layout and design are equally as vital as content and material when it comes to attracting customers, because formatted images can do just as much persuading as well-written text. Investing a little more time and effort behind the scenes will make a noticeable difference when conversion rates begin to increase.
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