Optimizing Your Images For the Web
Firstly – filenames. It’s good practice to name all of your web images just using numbers and letters (letter or numbers ONLY!). Hyphens and underscores are allowed – but nothing else. Definitely no spaces (yes really!!), pound signs, brackets, percent symbols, apostrophe’s, commas etc etc. Such things cause problems for browsers.
Secondly – image dimensions. You may have a huge collection of huge, high resolution images – but keep in mind most people do not have a massive screen – or a super fast internet connection to download them! Keep in mind a lot of customers and visitors are on laptops, mobile phones and smaller screens, so you should ensure your images are optimized for them. If you are using our ecommerce software – it will automatically show images to fit the user’s screen size so image dimensions dont matter. Otherwise – it’s good practice to set your product images no larger than 600 or 700 pixels in width.
Thirdly – file download size. If your ecommerce software isn’t doing this for you, this is a critical area to focus on. Lots of weighty, heavy images mean the vastly increase the page download time, especially for those who don’t have a fast internet connection. This doesn’t just run to your customers – it’s well documented that Google and other search engine spiders will not hang around your site if it’s taking too long to download your pages. Fortunately there are some good image optimizers out there. These do a great job of preserving image quality but hacking into the filesize of an image. Photoshop’s Save For Web Tool is one of the best but there is a lot of software available today that do an equally good job.
Last but not least – which image type to use. There are lots of different image formats out there, but only three can be used for the web. GIF and JPEG are the long established two – more not long ago PNG was added to the list. The format you use for your images is important as images that are saved incorrectly will give you bad compression and quality results. These simple rules of thumb will help you decide which format to use:
* GIF – to be used for artwork/illustrations. GIF supports 256 colors and does a great job of compressing files.
* JPEG – should always be used for photographs or scanned images. Due to the massive amount of colors being present in photos – GIF with it’s 256 colors only is a bad idea to save photos in. JPEG was created for this purpose so any photographs, scanned images should be saved in this format.
* PNG – just recently introduced which does the best job of preserving quality but reducing size. Keep in mind – there are two PNG formats – PNG-8 and PNG-24. PNG-8 is the web optimzed one but bear in mind that only supports 256 colors (like GIF above). PNG-24 supports a lot more colors but as it includes layers and other assorted metadata – compression rates are quite inferior. Also – as this is a new format – some of the older browsers have trouble with PNG images.
Lisa Gold has written several articles on ecommerce software and gives tips and advice for making the most out of your shopping cart.
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