Recently, Google webmaster analysts explained that Image Search will soon evolve in a way that will influence how we approach media file optimization. To summarize, it’s going to become increasingly important to prioritize next-gen formats.
Simply put, next-gen images refer to modern formats that are compressed in a way that enables them to load faster. The most common is the WebP file type, which creates versatile, high-quality visuals that are smaller than both JPEGs and PNGs.
In this post, we’ll explain what WebP images are and the benefits of using them. Then we will walk you through four of the methods you can use to serve media files in next-gen formats for WordPress. Let’s get started!
An overview of WebP and next-gen image formats
Next-gen – short for ‘next generation’ – image formats are modern file types that boast impressive quality and advanced compression capabilities compared to the traditional JPEG, PNG, and GIF. They produce smaller sizes, which means they can help significantly increase the speed of webpages.
The most common types are:
- JPEG XR. The standard format for enhanced HDR images. JPEG XR uses more enhanced compression techniques than the original JPEG.
- JPEG 2000. This is the newest iteration of the JPEG image format. It uses lossless compression with minimal sacrifice to visual quality.
- WebP. Supports both lossy and lossless compression. WebP lossless images are almost 30 percent smaller than PNG and JPEG files.
Not every browser supports each type of next-gen format. For example, while Chrome and Firefox can load WebP files, Safari doesn’t yet. Conversely, Safari can display JPEG 2000 images but Firefox and Chrome do not.
In addition to the fact that the overwhelming majority of people use Chrome, WebP was developed by Google and is the most lightweight option. Therefore, it’s safe to assume that this will become the most popular and preferred type of next-gen image.
The benefits of using next-gen images
As you’re probably aware, images account for much of the loading time on websites. This is why optimizing them through compression is strongly recommended. However, thanks to their small file size, next-gen files load even faster in browsers, which can help improve User Experience (UX) for your site visitors.
Although WebP images are about three times smaller than other formats, they include the same capabilities of PNGs, JPEGs, and GIFs. This means they support both transparency and animation. In addition to making your site – and the web as a whole – faster, they can also simplify the optimization process for you too.
Website speed and performance are major factors taken into account by Google when determining rankings. Every second counts. Therefore, serving next-gen images on your WordPress site can also have Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
This article was written by Will Morris and originally published on ManageWP.