Speed up your WordPress site today with one tweak.
Published on August 21, 2019
Most of us are well aware that speed is a major priority for anyone running or maintaining a WordPress site. SEO and marketing experts have been speaking about the benefits of optimising page speed and load times for quite a while now, and there are literally hundreds of tweaks you can make to a site to help improve load times.
Depending on your level of technical knowledge, some of these things are quick and simple to implement, and others require an investment in time and effort, and may even require you to seek someone with more knowledge and experience to adjust things for you.
For example, if you are running a WordPress site, choosing a hosting provider which serves your site from the same region as your visitors is important – i.e Australian businesses should always chose Australian based hosting; this is a relatively simple choice to make. On the other hand, implementing page and browser caching can be a difficult task for some and requires constant maintenance to keep things running to its most optimal.
The good news is though, there is one simple thing you can do today which will likely improve your page load time and speed score, and result in a faster experience for your visitors… And that thing is:
Image Compression and Size Optimisation
I’m tipping that if have you a website, then you have images up there too. The obvious example is things like product photos, banner images, portfolio of works, team member head shots, screenshots, backgrounds, icons, banner headings and so on.
Very often, images are the largest the piece of information which has to be loaded every time someone visits your site, and the majority of the time, when a website is developed the images are uploaded in their original form and are very large. Photo’s taken from an iPhone for example can be over 2mb in size, and photos purchased from stock image galleries can be even larger. – The reason is because the larger the original image, the more detail it contains, which is particularly valuable in photography and higher resolution images.
The important thing to understand however is that regardless of how much screen size an image takes up on your page, if the image is uploaded in its original form, then your site visitors have the download the full, uncompressed image and wait for it to complete before the site is fully loaded. Needless to say, depending on the number of images and the size of each, this can take quite some time (not to mention consume unnecessary bandwidth).
So what do you need to do?
Assuming that you have a WordPress site, the easiest solution is use a plugin to assist. You could of course go ahead and manually adjust and resize your images one by one, but that generally isn’t practical. There are some great solutions available which will help you in two ways.
- Compress your images and reduce the overall file size, which saves disk space and bandwidth, in-turn reducing load times for your visitors.
- Adjust the dimensions of the image, so that the appropriate size is being loaded for the amount of screen the image uses.
Option 1. ShortPixel Plugin (Recommended)
Short Pixel is a plugin which is easy to install and configure from within your WordPress Dashboard, and is available for free for a limited number of images.
To get started, sign-up for a ShortPixel account and get the API key from shortpixel.com. The free monthly account includes 100 image optimization credits, which is fine for most small sites as a starting point. If you like it, you can either pay for a subscription or purchase one off credits which you can use as required.
The easiest way to install ShortPixel is from the plugins section of the WordPress dashboard. From your Dashboard, add a new plugin and search for ShortPixel. You will actually see two plugins by ShortPixel, both of which you should Install and Activate it. As we mentioned above, the two purposes are to firstly compress your images to the file size is smaller, and secondly to adjust images to the appropriate size for the amount of screen space your images are using. In this article, we are going to focus on the ‘Image Optimizer’ plugin. Go ahead and install and activate that plugin.
Once activated, open the plugin settings for the Short Pixel Image Optimizer plugin . You will need to provide your API key which you should have received via email when you signed up, or you can access it from your account page on the ShortPixel site.
ShortPixel is now installed, and you will have a page giving you different settings you can adjust. Generally speaking, the default settings will be appropriate for most users, however I recommend adjusting the ‘Compression Type’ to ‘Glossy’. This setting means your images will be compressed, but doesn’t reduce the quality of the image visible to the human eye. I personally find the ‘Lossy’ setting too aggressive and reduces images to a very low quality. Adjust your settings, scroll to the bottom and hit the ‘Save and Go to Bulk Process’ button.
That’s pretty much it. ShortPixel will get to work going through your media library one by one and will compress each of your images, which should have an immediate impact on your page speed! It’s also worth pointing out, one of the default settings which is applied is that newly uploaded images will automatically get compressed as well, so you now have a little robot working on your site ensuring that any large images you upload will get compressed for you. (until your credits run out at least).
Option 2. Smush Plugin by WPMU Dev
The second option is to use a tool called Smush, developed by the team at WMPUDev. These guys have a fairly large selection of plugins and tools, and offer a decent amount of support. Smush is one of their main plugins which they promote as all in one image compression tool and it does a very good job. Admittedly, I personally haven’t used this plugin for a while (I use ShortPixel) but I have used it in the past, and they have excellent reviews and over 1 million downloads on the WordPress plugin directory, so its an absolutely safe bet.
Similar to the above, the easiest way is to add the plugin from the WordPress Dashboard by searching for Smush. It should be the first plugin in your results, and is listed as ‘Smush Image Compression and Optimization”. Install and Activate this plugin.
Once installed and activated, move to the settings page of the plugin and you can start to setup your site to use the Smush Plugin. They have a nice, clean wizard which guides you through the setup, and generally the default settings will be appropriate for most users. Or you can chose to skip the wizard and apply your own custom settings.
Just like that, your plugin is setup and ready and Smush will start to compress all of your images on your site, as well as automatically compress all new images uploaded to your site.
At this point, I should make it clear that I don’t recommend installing both of these plugins and having them running at the same time on your WordPress site. Although they do have slightly different features, and likely will result in different levels of compression, there is no value in having them running side by site, and in fact, doing so could potentially have a negative impact on your site due to conflicts, or overall processing overhead.
That said I recommend you try both and see which of the two will work best for you, and stick with it.