Bigger isn’t always better

Adam Coupe of Adam Coupe Photography advises how you can have a stunning website packed with beautiful images without compromising on how quickly your site loads.

It’s a fact that websites are now judged almost as much on their speed as they are on their quality. I’ve just read some research from tech experts Akamai saying that 47% of web users expect a site to load in just two seconds, and 40% won’t wait for more than three seconds for a page to load. Too slow, and they just abandon the site altogether and move on to a competitor.

Load speed is also now one of the key criteria in Google search engine rankings so, if you’re not making your website as fast as possible, you’re losing out on visitors even if you’ve done all the hard work on the rest of your SEO.

In this industry, websites are obviously packed with images illustrating products and particularly installations. But it is image files which generally have the biggest impact on how fast a website loads, so these need to be properly optimised to stop them from slowing things down.

If you’ve invested in professional photography, or even if you’ve got your own full size images from a digital or phone camera, I know it’s tempting to use the ‘full fat’ versions of images across your marketing because you know that these are at maximum resolution.

While that’s certainly the right thing if you’re using images in print, there’s really no need to use them in ‘full fat’ form online. Far better to use a ‘skinny’ version which preserves the sharpness but which is guaranteed to load quickly without any kind of distortion.

Typically, for brochure work, you need an image of at least 3MB (3000KB) but, for online use, you should be aiming for something much closer to 150KB, or just 1000 x 600 pixels compared with a print size image of 6000 x 4000 pixels. The difference won’t be visible on screen, and definitely not on a phone or tablet, and at this size you can be confident that they will load almost instantly.

The good news is that there are plenty of image optimisation software packages available which can scan and optimise an entire image library ready to upload to a website. These include Tiny PNGCompressor.ioJPEG OptimiserOptimizilla and Kraken. Remember though, that you must keep a ‘master’ version of every file separate from the optimised file so that you don’t lose the original quality.

Most professionals will shoot in RAW format and keep a master copy of any image in RAW, as well as providing clients with lossless TIFF images and high res JPEG files. I always advise my clients to keep the TIFF images safe and to save JPEGs from the TIFF file if they need different sizes. This is because, every time a JPEG is adjusted and resaved, it is recompressed and loses quality so the older a JPEG image is and the more times it has been saved, the worse it will look.

If you take my advice in terms of optimising your site, then there are also plenty of free tools which you can use when you’ve finished to check that it’s loading quicker than before.

Try and, to check that your site is working on mobiles as well, I think is useful.

I can’t overstate the importance of getting your website speed and ranking right. These are harsh statistics but 67% of people click on one of the first five links on a Google search results page and only 5% of people even bother to look past page 1.