Thursday, January 07, 2010

6 Free Tools to Optimize Images and Improve Page Load Time

It’s 2010 and most Internet users have made the switch to broadband, right? Wrong, there’s still a large proportion of the web’s population chugging along with a good old dial-up connection. This is certainly a large enough segment of potential visitors you need to take into consideration when designing your website, especially when it comes to the loading time of your webpages.

The text on your pages will generally be loaded in a very short time – even on a dial-up connection. The guilty party, when it comes to a slow-loading page is mainly due to larger images. It’s therefore very important to implement a subtle balance between use of imagery, size, quality and loading time.

It needn’t be a huge chore to optimize images and make sure pages load in the least possible time. Using image editing software, you can remove any unnecessary information in your images, thus in effect reducing the file size – without affecting the image’s appearance.

If you don’t happen to own the latest copy of Adobe Photoshop or other similar image editing software, there are plenty of great, free alternatives online.

Gimp  is probably the most downloaded free alternative to photoshop, supporting the most common file types as well as special use formats. Gimp can be used for all types of processing and handling images.

Riot - Radical Image Optimization Tool – does a little bit more than some other compression software, including ‘in place comparison’, single or dual view, saving and optimizing Gif, Jpeg or Png with a simple user interface. Riot can be downloaded and has plugins available for Gimp and IrfanView.

If you’re using photoshop, saving an image as a Jpeg with a quality setting of 8 to 10 is good enough to preserve quality, while storing at a small file size.

A frequently used alternative is to save your image as a Gif file – image editing software trims away all the color information not relevant to your image, leaving you with the smallest file size possible. However, saving in Gif format will often compromise the appearance of your image.

Saving your image in Png format will result in the smallest file size and best quality.

There are also free tools that do the work for you.

SiteReportCard will compress any Gif, Jpeg or Png file with the click of a button, returning a variety of sizes and quality levels.

GifBot accepts uploads directly from your hard-drive, or enter a url and gifbot will return a list of all the images on that page. Results are displayed in Gif or Jpeg format.

Jpeg & Png Stripper is a downloadable app which, funnily enough, strips out any unnecessary metadata from Jpeg and Png files without any loss of quality. is no longer available as a standalone app, having been integrated with Yahoo!’s Yslow - a firefox addon requiring firebug installation – However, WP is a plugin for WordPress, which runs every uploaded image through an optimization process, without any extra effort on your part.

It may take a little time to find the perfect balance between size, quality and page load times, experiment by saving to different formats and comparing quality and loading time. Your visitors will thank you when you get it right – especially those with a dial-up connection.


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