If you’re running a WordPress website, you probably know that page design is important to keep your audience, which is why everyone uses a lot of images. However, you should also bear in mind that images play an equally important role in the performance of your website. No one wants to visit a page that loads slowly, and often, unoptimized images are responsible for poor website performance.
When creating a new WordPress website, many people simply upload images, without considering their size and the fact that they can take up too much storage space on the server. This practice can result in slow loading speed, which translates into a high percentage of visitors leaving the website.
In this blog post, we’ll look at why image optimization is important for WordPress website performance and how it is affected by images that are too large. We’ll also share some tips on how to solve the problem of images not making your website fast enough.
How large images actually affect the loading speed of your WordPress site
Having visual content on a website encourages visitors to stay longer, arouses their curiosity, and attracts them in the first place. Images, if not optimized, will have more disadvantages than advantages. Slow websites are bad for user experience, and thus have a negative impact on traffic, which is the opposite of what website owners want.
Large images affect the performance of your WordPress website because they:
❌ Make the page load slower
The main downside of large images (images that are several megabytes in size) is that they increase page load time. If your website doesn’t load in a few seconds, you can be sure that most users will not hesitate to abandon it. We all want instant access to the pages we are interested in and if the content is not displayed in less than a couple of seconds, we tend to leave the website.
It’s easy to understand how large images impact loading speed: before a page is displayed, the browser must load all assets, including the images. So, the larger the images, the longer it takes to load and render them.
❌ Large images consume too much disk space
Another way in which large images affect your website is that they take up space on your web server. This is especially noticeable for websites that are limited by their hosting plan. If you run a WordPress website with limited resources, you need to find solutions to optimize the storage space.
In addition to requiring more storage space, unoptimized images also consume more bandwidth to transmit files to the user’s browser. Using smaller images is good for both the website owner (because it reduces bandwidth consumption) and the user (because the page loads faster);
❌ Affect user experience
Think about the fact that large images slow down page loading, which means they interfere with the user experience. Both desktop visitors and especially those accessing the page from a smartphone are irritated by slow load times.
Users will leave a website if they don’t think it loads quickly enough and owners will notice an increase in bounce rates. By combining visually engaging content, intuitive navigation, and quick page loads, users will be more inclined to stay on the website and explore it.
The good news is that you don’t have to forego uploading your favorite images to your blog (or any other type of WordPress page you own). All you have to do is optimize each image you use.
❌ Affect SEO ranking
Everyone knows that Google has made loading speed a ranking factor because it has a strong impact on user experience. Page load speed is measured by the time it takes for a page to load after a user clicks on a link to access your website, such as on Google search results page. If your website loads slowly because of large images, users will be unhappy and Google will penalize your website ranking.
In fact, the BBC found out that with every additional second of page load time, 10% of users will leave. Therefore, it is important that you optimize your images, as a good SEO practice, to reduce the weight of your website, improve the page load time, and boost your SEO ranking.
Why is image optimization important?
As we’ve seen above, slow speed will always hold you back from ranking higher in Google and other search engine’s results. By optimizing images, you ensure a better load speed and increase your chances of getting a good position in search engine results.
Here are some of the advantages of serving images in the correct size and format:
- Less bandwidth consumption: by optimizing images, you reduce the additional load on the server and make efficient use of the available storage and bandwidth. This enables you to avoid wasting hosting resources and gives you more space if you want to load other content.;
- Improves user experience: we said it before, but we need to say it once again: fast websites improve user experience and overall user satisfaction, which is important for increasing conversions. Even one second can make a difference in bounce rates, which is 9% for pages that load in 2 seconds and rises sharply to 38% for websites that take 5 seconds to load, according to recent statistics.
The slow loading of a page is frustrating for the user and is the main reason why they give up exploring its content. If you consider all the factors that influence the user experience, including optimizing all images, you will provide a better overall experience for those who choose to visit your WordPress website;
- Improving page load time: the loading speed of a website depends on several factors, such as website layout and visual content. The latter weighs more than half the weight of a website. Therefore, if images are not optimized, the pages load slowly. The solution is to optimize images without sacrificing their quality. Following that, you will see an improvement in loading speed, which goes hand in hand with user satisfaction;
- Boosts SEO rankings: when you run a website and want to get on top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), you need to adopt effective SEO practices. You must know that having SEO optimized content, using keywords in titles, and other actions that make up a good SEO strategy are not enough. Google loves fast websites and ranks them higher in search results than those loading slowly and not providing a good user experience.
By serving optimized and properly-sized images you have more chances to get a better position in the search engine results and gain visibility in front of your target audience. Sometimes, people invest a lot of time in shaping complex SEO strategies and forget about small details, such as image optimization. Don’t make this very common mistake.
What steps can you take to improve the performance of your WordPress site? ?
To sum up: we’ve seen how large images affect the performance of WordPress websites (slow page load speed, extra resource consumption, negative user experience, and poor SEO ranking) and why it’s always good to optimize images.
Now, let’s take a look at the actions you can take to improve the performance of your WordPress website:
✔️ Compress and optimize your images
As mentioned above, the very first step you can take towards improving the performance of your WordPress website is to optimize and compress images. By image compression, we mean reducing the size of the image file without altering the overall quality. You can do this manually or by using a plugin. In the end, you will get a faster loading speed of your website, a better score in performance tests (such as PageSpeed Insights or GTmetrix) and a better position in Google search results.
There are many plugins that do the job for you and instantly optimize your images. One of the best is ShortPixel Image Optimizer, which is easy to install and use. Its main feature is to compress images without affecting their quality (including the images already uploaded on your WordPress website). Using such a plugin significantly reduces the weight of your website and thus its impact on the loading speed.
✔️ Use a correct file format for your images
Choosing the right file extension for your WordPress website can help you reduce large file sizes. So, another aspect that you must pay attention to is using the correct format for each image. The most common are formats JPG and PNG:
- JPG: photos work best in JPG format. The file size is smaller and just right for uploading to your website.
- PNG: this format usually generates a larger file size and is used for logos, icons and text-heavy images, i.e. where a transparent background is needed. Although they have the disadvantage of being larger in file size, PNGs maintain a higher quality.
Once you have determined what the image will be used for, choosing between JPG and PNG image formats has never been easier.
✔️ Lazy-load the images
Lazy-loading is technique that helps improve the page load time by deferring (postponing) image loads until they are required. That means the images are only loaded when the user scrolls down on the page, i.e. exactly when they are supposed to see them. The advantage is that server resources are used more efficiently, since not many requests are taken at once.
Before WordPress 5.5, lazy-loading was only possible for WordPress with a plugin like Autoptimize, WP Rocket, or others. Now it’s part of WordPress Core and won’t require additional plugins to be installed because images will be lazy-loaded by default.
✔️ Choose a good caching plugin
Another measure to implement if you want to improve the performance of your WordPress site is the use of a good caching plugin. Caching a page means storing its data when a user visits it for the first time, so that their browser won’t ask for the same information each time the user comes back to that page. What does this mean? On subsequent visits to the website, the user will enjoy faster loading speed.
There are a lot of great WordPress caching plugins available out there that come with powerful features.
Using large images is often responsible for the slow loading of a WordPress website. This problem can be quickly solved by following the tips we have presented above: optimizing the images, choosing the right format, lazy-loading them, and last but not least, using a caching plugin.
All these practices will lead to improved page load speed, storage space savings, and ultimately a better user experience. As a direct result, your WordPress website will see a decrease in bounce rates and a better position in the rankings of various search engines.