Technology

What’s the Best Image Format for Your Website?

This post delves into the role of images in web design, the critical role of image formats, and the best formats to use for your website.

With more than half of the world’s population now online, most brands work hard to build their online presence through beautiful websites. However, there’s so much information available to internet users daily, and it’s difficult to captivate them using plain written content. This is where impressive images for web design come in handy and image formats play a crucial role.

Using attractive pictures and other visual elements can help your brand convey emotions such as delight, sadness, or even pity and connect easily with your audience. Research shows that people remember 80% of what they see and only 20% of what they read. The same study says the human brain processes visuals 60,000 times faster than text. When you deploy images on your website, you can easily pass the message to your target audience. Visuals are powerful in awakening memories and emotions, and this can help your marketing efforts.

This post delves into the role of images in web design, the critical role of image formats, and the best formats to use for your website.

Why Do Image Formats Matter in Web Design?

While there’s no doubt about the impact images have on your website, you can’t overlook the impact of the image format. Many impressively designed websites fall short because of the wrong choice of image formats.

Some image formats depict images beautifully, but hog a lot of storage space, which limits your site’s loading speeds. Site speed is a critical factor in the site’s performance and search engine optimization (SEO).

Research shows that 37% of visitors bounce when your site takes five seconds or more to load. Also, 70% of customers say site speed affects their purchasing decisions. A similar study shows a single second delay can lead to a 7% drop in conversions. If not properly optimized or delivered, images can cause myriad challenges for your website. This is a good reason to identify the best image format for your website.

With Google now focusing more on user experience (UX), the last thing you want is to lower the standards on your website through poorly optimized images. This requires a balance between aesthetics and functionality when choosing your images. Optimizing your site’s images boosts site speeds and helps bolster ranking on search engine result pages (SERPs).

While resizing your images to the exact specifications of your website or compression works in most cases, there’s still a risk of a strain on site performance and bandwidth usage. Such image manipulation can compromise the resulting quality.

Luckily, you have a wide range of image formats that deliver stylish images without compromising on the site’s performance. For consistency, the best approach is to use one image format throughout the website.

Raster vs. Vector Image File Formats

When selecting the best image file format for your website, you’ll come across two broad categories:

  • Raster Image File Formats

These are graphic formats that use bitmaps to store information. Most digital photography available online is raster-based. For a large image, you need a large bitmap. Raster images are made up of individual pixels of color and boast rich details, and the ability to render complex, multicolored visuals.

Scaling down raster images is easy but enlarging them gives blurred images. The size and quality of a raster image determines its application. The number of pixels in an inch (expressed as pixels-per-inch or ppi) determines the quality. The overall dimensions of the image, also expressed as pixels, gives the quality of the image.

You can compress these images for storage or use them as web-optimized images. There is, however, a risk when you transform a raster image because you stretch the pixels themselves, and you might end up with a “pixelated” or blurry image. Trying to enlarge a raster image file gives even worse results. Examples of raster files include JPG, GIF, and PNG.

Within the raster image file format are further classifications into:

  1. Lossy formats: Lossyraster image formats approximate what your original image looks like and can omit some details. They help reduce the file size, but in the process might reduce the quality of your image.
  2. Lossless raster formats capture all the data of your original file. You can still compress lossless raster images but the formats can reconstruct your image to its original state.
  • Vector Image File Formats

Vector graphics use paths made up of points and lines to create an image with a mathematical formula (vector). You can scale vector graphics up and down without a loss of details or getting any pixelation. the format works best for logos, icons, typesetting, and digital illustrations. 

You can deploy the same file for use on a website, mobile app, or a billboard without compromising on quality or increasing file size. Vector image file formats include scalable vector graphics (SVG), Encapsulated PostScript (EPS), Corel Draw File, AI, and PDF.

Best Image Formats to Use

Choosing the right image format for your web design can make all the difference for your brand’s success. For this reason, explore the diverse range of image format available to determine what suits your website best. Take a look:

JPEG

Joint Photographic Experts Group (JPEG) is a lossy raster format and one of the most commonly used image formats online. The format is common for photos, email graphics, and large web images. JPEGs compress image data through reduction of sections of pixels, which means this is a permanent effect.

JPEGs are now the de facto standard image of web design because of the format’s capacity for compression. Another advantage of this format is the capacity for displaying complex photographs that include a lot of colors.

Other advantages of JPEG include fast-loading images through HTTP/2, best for storage of scrip pictures and multi-browser support, and perfect for small email attachments.

The major downside of JPEGs is the effect on the quality after optimizing your images for your website. The drop in quality of the image is only slight and might not be noticeable. This format is also not ideal for images with very few color data. You can’t use JPEG for computer–generated graphics, and this limits its use on many websites.

PNG

If you’re working with computer-generated graphics, Portable Network Graphics (PNGs) is the best file format to use. This image format is as popular as JPEG and works best for images with fewer colors. PNGs support a wide range of colors, but it’s best recommended for images with less color. PNGs work best for blog graphics, screenshots, infographics, banners, coupons, and other visuals that include text.

You have two options: PNG-24, which delivers better quality image with better transparency compared to PNG-8. However, when you don’t mind about transparency, PNG-8 still delivers the results for simple logos with few colors. 

If you’re working with images that feature rapid transitions between colors and you want a sharp image, PNG is the format to choose. Other advantages of PNG include widespread compatibility across multiple browsers (Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, Safari), and high image quality even when compressed, compared to JPEGs.

However, PNGs files can be cumbersome, which can affect website speeds and the user experience. PNG image types also don’t support animation, which excludes many websites.

GIFs

Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) is an image file type within the raster format and uses lossless compression. While it’s possible to have static GIF images, the format is mostly applied to showcase animations.

The image format can reduce thousands of colors in an image to 256 (8-bit color file). The format also supports transparency, and the unique ability to display a sequence of images makes them ideal for website applications.

Where transparency is crucial, GIFs work well for limited-color images, such as logos and graphs, or for images. These images are also effective for demonstrations in tutorials and guides, and the images are supported across multiple browsers (Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Safari).

GIF colors are limited to 256, which means they can’t work effectively for full-color product photos and human portraits. Another downside is in the optimization of images/animations, which gives unimpressive results. For static images, GIFs are also heavy, and this would affect the performance of your website when used liberally.

SVG

Scalable Vector Graphics file format is a product of W3C as a markup language for rendering two-dimensional images on a browser. This vertical graphics format uses XML text to outline shapes and lines as opposed to pixels in a raster format.

The biggest advantage of SVG image format is the ability to scale up images infinitely with no loss of quality. SVG delivers small file sizes with loss-free scaling, which doesn’t affect the quality of your website. Major browsers such as Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Safari support the SVG file format.

If you want an image file format for logos, icons, and simple illustrations, SVG is the perfect choice and the images are freely scalable with your responsive design.

However, SVG works best only for simple illustrations, shapes, and text and not complex images or complex drawings. With modern websites featuring highly complex images, this might not be the ideal format. Default image editors don’t support SVG because it’s not suitable for photographs.

WEbP

WEbP is an image file format that provides better lossless and lossy compression of images. If you want to save on bandwidth on your website, this is the ideal image format, as you can switch seamlessly from JPEG and PNG to WebP.

Saving on server disk space and bandwidth are great tactics of you want to speed up your website. With WEbP, you can get 35% smaller image files without compromising on the image quality. WEbP is supported by the latest versions of top browsers.

Among the downsides is the lack of support by most native OS image editors and lack of multi-browser compatibility.

HEIC/HEIF

High Efficiency Image File Format (HEIF) is a raster image format developed by MPEG video format makers to compete with JPEG. The format developers claim it offers two times better compression efficiency compared to JPEG and a greater quality-to-file-size ratio. Currently, HEIF has native support in macOS Sierra and iOS 11. 

However, as a raster image format based on pixel mapping, there’s no scalability without accompanying loss of quality. Another downside is the fact that HEIF has no browser, and if you use this image format, you’ll get limited OS support.

Which Is the Best Image Format?

These are only a few of the image formats available for your site’s design. While each has advantages and disadvantages, the following factors should guide you in the choice of the image format:

  1. Assess your brand’s needs: Choose an image format that allows you to showcase the strengths of your brand.
  2. Determine the type of images: Some image formats work well with colors and others don’t. For instance, if you have an image with a wide range of colors, go for PNGs or JPGs and avoid the GIF format. The transparency and complexity also helps determine the best choice of image format. Use PNG file type for an image that has a lot of colors or requires advanced variable transparency.
  3. User experience: When choosing an image format, consider how scaling the images affects the quality of the images and also the speed of your website. Look for an image format that allows scaling without diminishing the performance of your website.
  4. Aesthetics: Consider the overall aesthetics of your website because this can determine whether visitors linger or click away.
  5. Multiple browser support: Your target market is diverse, and you want users to view all your images easily across all browsers. The best image format should be compatible with all browsers.
  6. Test the image format on an image editor: Export the image for different file types and compare file size and image quality. This helps you to choose between different image file formats easily. 

 Final Thoughts

It might be cliché, but they say a picture is worth a thousand words, and this maxim applies aptly in website design. Website images play a critical role in achieving the objective of your web development. It’s easier to captivate the user when you have impressive images, and this is a good reason to choose the right image format. The tips here are a starting point to leverage images to promote your online business.

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