Responsive Imagery – Tips for a Better User Experience

  • Sarah Johnson 07-03-2020 Read time (5 min)

Responsive Imagery – Tips for a Better User Experience

Every business wants to cater to mobile users; after all, they make up more than 50% of the total internet traffic. How do you cater to mobile users? Yes, building a separate mobile website can be a solution, but think again; for how many devices would you have to do that? Sounds Tedious, doesn’t it? And even when those websites are up, maintaining them would require too much time and effort.

Obviously, responsive design is the way forward, as any reputed company offering website design services would suggest. It is by far the best approach if you want to offer a consistent experience across all devices. But while it is effective, it is also complicated. On the surface, responsive design is just a layout that adapts according to the screen size, but there is a lot more involved than mere adjustment. And if you are a novice, you may ignore or not pay attention to other important aspects like the imagery, for instance.

While your chosen web design services should take care of all technicalities, you should be aware of responsive image tips and what you can do to improve the overall design. Let’s take a look.

What Are Responsive Image Techniques About?

Responsive image techniques are about providing the browser with several image sources by considering various factors like the display density and image size.

The Use Cases

When considering different responsive images tips and approaches, it can be challenging to decide a solution that works best in your particular scenario. The key is knowing the use case. Though many of these exist, we’ll stick to just the two main ones: resolution switching and art direction. The former is the most common and refers to any scenario where different sized images are required. However, when they are being provided, the content or the aspects ratio remains the same. What this means is that regardless of the size, the image will have all elements and features, and will not be cropped.

Art direction is the preferred use case if the aspect ratio or the content has to be modified. Rather than simply resizing the entire image, this approach focuses on the main object in the image, cropping the surrounding region in the process. Now when the image is resized, the main object is clearer.

The art direction approach, however, isn’t just limited to image cropping. The same technique can be used for changing image orientation from landscape to portrait or vice versa, depending on the screen size.

Why Are Responsive Images Important?

Generally, most people just scale down images through CSS in an attempt to make them responsive. However, this doesn’t cut it because the resulting images are usually bigger than they should be. Generally, designers prefer creating images at the largest size that is required, and then scaling them down to fit smaller screens.

What’s the problem with this approach? File size isn’t reduced. So basically, the mobile devices have to download images in a bigger size, which unnecessarily eats the data bandwidth and allotted volume. Moreover, if the cellular network is slow, the images take ages to load, negatively impacting the user experience. Also, browsers don’t usually resize the images well, often resulting in blurry pictures and illustrations, especially if they include any text. What’s the end result? Lower conversion rates and abandoned visitors who usually don’t return again.

Let’s translate all the negative impacts of just ‘scaling’ images into numbers. Even if the large image size increases website loading time by two seconds, you’re likely to lose 4.3% revenue per visitor, decrease clicks by 3.75% and experience a 1.8% reduction in queries.

Generally, more than 50% of potential visitors expect site loading times to be around 2 seconds or even less. For all these visitors, if the load time increases by even a mere second, they’re likely to abandon your website. Considering ecommerce websites, around 79% of visitors don’t return if they face performance issues and to top it off, 44% of these users even share their bad experience with their social circles.

Website performance and user experience are directly linked, and this is a correlation that Google considers when allotting ranks on the SERPs. So basically, if you don’t do anything, these scaled and bloated images are actually decreasing your website visibility. As per the stats, visibility reduction for a single image is around 64% so that is quite massive.

Summarizing our discussion so far, scaled images affect user experience negatively, reduce website visibility and lower engagement rates. If you were not to use these images, what would you do then? Let’s read on to find out some responsive images tips.

Uploading Multiple Image Sizes

An obvious solution could be to upload images in different sizes for different devices. Though the approach is simple, there are certain issues to deal with. Once again, how many rescaled images would you exactly upload for the wide number of devices? And this becomes more complex when you factor in the total images on your website.

The total number of images required is only part of the problem. Layout breakpoints are another one. Generally, each page can have several of these, and each would require an appropriate image size ideally. Now if the image appears in several places, this will have to be done a couple more times. As an example, an image that appears in a blog can often be used as a thumbnail. Also, the size of this thumbnail can change depending on where the lists are displayed, which can be in the central column, the sidebar or under the related articles section.

Whose job is it to upload images in so many sizes? The content creators can’t do this, simply because it’s time consuming, and many of them may not even know how to rescale or compress images properly. Even if they could somehow manage rescaling, compression would still be a problem because it affects site speeds— as we have already discussed.

What’s the best way to deal with this? Generally, web developers upload all images on a separate side server dedicated for the purpose. They simply upload the picture, and the server resizes and compresses them. This is pretty effective, but there are certain drawbacks. One is the costs, and the second is the amount of time required. Also, what if you wanted to reduce the website or simply just create a new back point? You’d have to execute the process all over again, reprocessing them so that they are compatible with the new layout.

How can you work around this? Use a tool like ImageKit, which creates an image of any size and compresses it in real time. The tool integrates with all popular web development platforms like WordPress, Shopify and Magento. The content creators just upload the images in the biggest size and best quality available, and the tool takes care of the remaining tasks. Since all images are being produced in real time, a change in required dimensions doesn’t matter. So if you now change the layout, the tool would simply need a new size and will make adjustments by itself. Thus, delivering optimized imagery over a CDN is a much better solution.

Are there any other benefits of using such tools? Things are simplified for your content creators. Performance of your website improves. Visitors enjoy more when browsing the pages, thus increasing engagement rates.

That being said, as beneficial as these tools may be, cropping is still a challenge… kind of.

Cropping Images

While image resize and compression tools like ImageKtit do work, human input is essential sometimes because cropping may not always be appropriate. Let’s consider two different kinds of images to explain this: the first image has text on it and the second image features the main object at a side rather than in the center.

For images with text, if the space for letters is narrower, more lines will be wrapped together, and thus, the resultant typeface will have increased width. Also, if this text is towards the edge, the text may be cropped until its position on the image is changed.

Now consider the second type of image with the main object positioned on one side. Regular cropping may simply remove this object from the picture. But only intelligent cropping can identify the object and accordingly make adjustments when cropping.

So how can images be cropped properly? And how can it be ensured that no main objects or features are eliminated? Most of the tools that exist in the market today aren’t capable of making such decisions. But fortunately, ImageKit can, which makes this software worthier!

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