Lazy loading images in WordPress is a crucial optimization hack since humans are impatient—even down to seconds.
Search engines, too. So, every second counts if you’re competing for top ranking on search results. Large, high-resolution images can slow your site’s speed as they take longer to load.
And if they take more than 3 seconds, a whopping 40% of your site visitors are likely to abandon your site. A slow website can lower your rankings, reduce traffic, and cost you conversions and customers.
But you can optimize images to speed up your site through lazy loading.
This article will deep dive into image lazy loading, how it works, and how it benefits your site’s performance.
What is Lazy Loading?
Lazy loading is a technique that waits to load non-critical resources on your web page—like images—until the user needs them.
When a user loads a page on your site, the resources at the top will load like they’re supposed to. But the images further down the page will load when the user scrolls down to the content.
Sites load light placeholder images when the page is loading. They then replace them with the intended image when the user scrolls as they read the content. As a result, the page load speed is reduced, improving user experience.
How To Implement Lazy Loading Images in WordPress
Use a WordPress Plugin
You can use lazy load on your website by adding a WordPress plugin. With the right plugin, lazy loading images significantly enhance your site’s performance.
These plugins are user-friendly and often require minimal configuration. They are accessible and easy to use even without advanced technical knowledge.
To get started, choose a WordPress lazy load plugin from the WordPress plugin repository. Install and activate the plugin. You can then configure the plugin settings to apply lazy loading to elements such as images, videos, and iframes.
If you’re using ShortPixel Image Optimizer, note that it doesn’t apply lazy loading to your images. To combine it with a lazy-load effect, use Autoptimize. You only need to install it and then navigate to Settings>Autoptimize>Images.
Check the checkbox provided at “Lazy-load images?” as shown below.
WordPress lazy-loading plugins are specifically designed to deliver images on a need basis, without the need for code. But even without a plugin, higher WordPress versions come with built-in features for lazy loading images.
Upgrade to WordPress 5.4 or Higher
WordPress 5.4 or higher versions include a default lazy-loading feature. If you want to use this functionality, update your WordPress site.
The HTML attribute applies lazy loading to all image tags, providing a standardized user experience without content shifting. This applies to images in the content, comments, text widgets, and post excerpts.
To upgrade your WordPress, go to WordPress Dashboard>Update. If your version is older, you’ll get a prompt to update it to a newer version.
While this method is easy and straightforward, you have fewer features and control. Plugins come with extra features like image optimization. But it’s a good place to start.
Enable Native Lazy Loading in Your Browser
You can enable lazy loading of images at the browser level. Just use the loading attribute and set it to lazy.
Chrome prioritizes image loading depending on where they are located based on the user’s device viewport—that is, the user’s visible area of a webpage on their device’s screen. If images are below the viewport, their loading priority is lower but still fetched as the page loads.
Setting the loading attribute to lazy completely defers the loading of offscreen images until they are reached by scrolling.
For iframes, add the loading attribute to the <iframe> tag.
All major browsers like Chrome, Microsoft Edge, and Safari support the loading attribute.
Benefits of Lazy Loading Images in WordPress
1. Improves Page Load Speed
One of the most significant advantages of lazy loading images is faster page load times. Long pages rich in resources like images and videos take longer to load since all the data must be downloaded before the page is made available.
But when images are loaded only when they’re in the user’s view, initial page rendering is much quicker. Lazy loading ensures that only the images visible to the user are loaded immediately, reducing the initial page load time.
2. Reduces Data and Bandwidth Usage
Lazy loading images helps reduce bandwidth consumption by only loading visuals as users scroll down the page. This benefits mobile users and those on slow or limited data connections by saving their data and reducing page loading times.
3. Improves User Experience
Another significant benefit of lazy loading images to your users is they can quickly access content on your site. Trying to load the entire page all at once takes longer. This can frustrate your site visitors, making them abandon the visit.
But when they interact with your site more quickly, with content loading as they scroll, you’ll have higher engagement and potentially longer time spent on your site.
Your site visitors are more likely to stay and engage with your content if they don’t have to wait for images to load before consuming it.
4. Reduces the Number of HTTP Requests to the Server
When images are lazy-loaded, it reduces the server load. Lazy loading reduces the strain on your server by reducing the number of HTTP requests.
It distributes this load more evenly as users scroll through the page. This reduces the risk of server overload and helps your site handle high traffic without slowing down or crashing.
5. Better SEO Performance
Google considers page speed as a ranking factor. A faster loading page offers a better user experience, more engagement, and lower bounce rates.
“We encourage you to start looking at your site’s speed (the tools above provide a great starting point)—not only to improve your ranking in search engines but also to improve everyone’s experience on the Internet.” ~Google
Implementing lazy loading can help improve your site’s SEO performance, resulting in increased organic traffic.
6. Improves Performance Metrics
Tools like Google’s PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse favor lazy loading websites. This is because it positively impacts key performance metrics like First Contentful Paint (FCP) and Largest Contentful Paint (LCP). This can result in higher scores and better rankings in search results.
WordPress Lazy Loading Tips and Best Practices
- Enable lazy loading for all images on your website, including those in your posts, pages, and galleries
- Don’t use lazy loading for background images or images that are part of the design of your website, as they should always be visible.
- Don’t lazy-load images placed at the top of the page, such as hero images as it has no benefit.
- Set the dimensions for image containers. This prevents sudden shifts in the layout, making your page look organized after loading.
- Don’t rely solely on lazy loading to optimize your website’s performance. You should also consider other optimization techniques such as image optimization, caching, minification, and CDN.
- Test your website after implementing lazy loading to ensure everything works as expected. Use tools like Google PageSpeed Insights.
- Keep your WordPress website and any plugins or themes up to date to ensure you have the latest features and security patches.
- Use lazy loading for important images such as logos or call-to-action buttons. These should be loaded immediately to ensure users have a seamless experience.
Lazy loading images is a game-changer for improving the performance of your WordPress site. It’s time to start implementing this technique if you haven’t already, as it can significantly reduce the loading time of your web pages.
This will lead to a better user experience and higher engagement rates while also helping to reduce your site’s bounce rate and improve your search engine ranking.
With the countless benefits it provides, there’s no reason not to give it a try. Your visitors will thank you for it, and you’ll enjoy a faster, more efficient, and more successful website.