Content is king of online marketing, and useful content with accompanying images has become the go-to online strategy for online businesses today.
People not only find graphic-based content more accessible to their memory, but they are also more likely to share such content. Ancient humans created the first written language of humans in the form of paintings on caves. Images have been a primary medium of communication throughout the ages.
Our brain is hardwired to understand visuals better than text. According to leading industry research, posts that contain graphics in them are likely to get higher engagement.
Appropriate use of images accentuates design and aesthetics, leading to increased brand engagement.
Because of these reasons today, we see that the internet today is flooded with images everywhere.
Content is abundant on the web today; businesses are scrambling to compete to cut through the clutter and grab the attention of the target market.
Therefore, high-quality images have become a vital part of online strategy, and it has resulted in modern websites becoming extremely image-heavy.
However, one of the problems with using a lot of images is that they can result in slow website performance.
Images, especially vibrant photos that use a lot of color palette, can be quite substantial in size. Unless they are well-optimized, these photos can take up a large chunk of your server resources. And it can lead to a host of problems for the website, such as slow website loading speed, or in the worst case, images not loading at all, if the server is unable to manage the extra load satisfactorily. Bad user experience can prove disastrous for your SEO, website conversion rate, and, ultimately, your bottom-line.
However, you can’t take a step back here. The solution is not using fewer images. If you are serious about delivering a superior user experience on your application/ website, then you will need to strategize this well.
One of the strategies that you can adopt is using different file formats so that you are providing the right balance between the image quality and the file size. The standard image file formats, JPEG & PNG, have been around for quite a long time. JPEG was developed in 1992, and PNG was developed in 1996. They are the two most commonly used file formats today. However, recently, a new image file technology, WebP, has been developed, and it is becoming very popular with webmasters today.
With so many techniques available today, it can confuse users as to which one they should use and when. So, let’s go ahead and demystify that for you.
What is WebP?
WebP is a modern format that can deliver superior image quality at a small size, thus promising to provide a faster and more engaging user experience on your website, even with a large number of images.
Google developed WebP in 2010 to mitigate the challenges of bulky file size for storing good-quality images. Google has been actively promoting WebP, which works for both lossy and lossless techniques. Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool proactively recommends webmasters to switch from JPEG and PNG to WebP, saying that it will improve their website speed score. The thumbnail images that you see on YouTube are all in webP format. It has also been actively adopted by other major technology companies, as well.
WebP is a modern image format that seamlessly combines the best of other forms, it not only supports both lossy and lossless compression, but it also supports animation (just like GIF) and alpha transparency ( like PNG).
Before studying the benefits of WebP, let us first understand the differences between lossy and lossless compression techniques and how WebP differs from the standard PNG and JPEG formats are.
What Is meant By Lossy And Lossless Compression Techniques?
Lossy compression refers to the compression technique where the data, especially redundant data, is unable to be recovered when the image file is uncompressed. In lossless compression, on the other hand, this data is preserved. Lossless is essential for text documents, for example, where the loss of data can lead to problems.
In lossy, the creator can decide how much loss to introduce & make a trade-off between quality and size.
JPEG is a lossy format. Hence you must have noticed that when the JPEG image is compressed, it tends to lose quality. But it will also depend upon how the image has been compressed.
On the other hand, PNG is a lossless compression format. It is helpful when you want to maintain the sharpness of your image, but PNG provides a limited scope for optimizing the file size.
PNG provides another option, in case you want to optimize the file size by removing unnecessary bytes. In case you can do with a limited color palette such as for text, then you can use PNG8, a palette color variant that supports only 256 colors. It can be useful for elements like icons & buttons. PNG 24 can handle a lot more colors and is suitable for complex photos
When saving images, you can compress in either lossy or lossless formats. Both lossy, as well as lossless compression, can be used to achieve different business use cases.
Benefits of WebP
Google recommends WebP because this format provides superior lossy and lossless compression for images. WebP technology can help create lighter, more vibrant images that make the web run faster with decreased web page load times & reduced total page weight. WebP animation supports major use cases of the other popular formats – JPEG, PNG, GIF.
This is a major reason why they have become a prevalent image format today. Most of the leading browsers have begun supporting this format to aid webmasters in delivering richer and faster web performance.
WebP’s unique compression systems can display images at approximately two thirds the size of the same image rendered in JPEG or PNG format.
With WebP, you can save the image in both lossless and lossy format, at a smaller file size than both PNG & JPEG files. This is a piece of amazing news if you are concerned with designing an optimized and fast web app experience with older image formats.
If your users have low bandwidth and slow connection speeds & you are running a whole bunch of images on your website, then this image format can make a massive difference.
WebP lossless images are 26% smaller in size compared to PNGs. WebP lossy images are 25-34% lower than comparable JPEG images at the equivalent SSIM quality index.
Lossless WebP supports transparency (also known as alpha channel) at the cost of just 22% additional bytes. For cases when lossy RGB compression is acceptable, lossy WebP also supports transparency, providing up to 3× smaller file sizes compared to PNG.
WebP, thus, helps to deliver significantly smaller file sizes than traditional image formats.
Fox media has claimed that moving to WebP has helped to shed off 1-3 seconds of their webpage load times.
However, specific challenges remain, such as some major applications such as Apple’s Safari browser, FIREFOX until very recently or Windows Photo viewer does not support it.
In this case, you can use WebP with JPEG or PNG to serve where you are not sure the browser would support. But for that, you may need to do a lot of setups. However, if you use our system you don’t need to do any setup, because our system is based on the browser you are using, and it will recognize if your browser supports WebP or not.
And, it can be complicated to set it up on your server by yourself.
As a web service provider, your aim to deliver faster page loads at lower bandwidth consumption and also ensuring that it automatically serves JPEG/PNG for incompatible browsers.
In these cases, setting up a CDN service can be the best option for you. CDN can transcode your images to WebP and serve them to compatible clients on your behalf. So, you don’t have to worry about optimizing your website with multiple logics. You can set up your whole site on WebP images and let your CDN service do the rest for you.
With CDN technology, better image compression will thus help you to achieve better web & mobile app loading.
At Medianova, we provide global CDN solutions in streaming, encoding, caching, micro caching, hybrid CDN, and website acceleration. We have delivered and managed CDNs for leading enterprises and our state-of-art solutions are benchmarked against industry-leading quality parameters.
Get in touch with us to learn more about how Medianova can build and manage an optimized and dedicated CDN for you.
To get Familiar with CDN, you can download for free our CDN Glossary from below.