Images keep websites from becoming boring sites with text only. Nothing is worse than being hit by a wall of solid text when you visit a website. If you’re the usual site visitor, you quickly lose interest and go elsewhere. Up goes the bounce rate!
On the other hand, websites that include images increase interest and reduce the bounce rate. However, adding images can also mean increasing costs and slowing your site’s page speed. Images have always been a problem; you try to reduce file sizes as much as possible without compromising image quality. That can work for many images, but not all of them. So, what’s the solution?
If you’re a web designer or a developer who wants to reduce and optimise image file size, you may want to consider WebP.
What is WebP?
WebP, commonly called “weppy,” is a fairly new format that was originally introduced by Google in 2010. How could that be “new?” Since it was first announced, Google has been upgrading and improving the format to its current state. The format is an alternative to formats such as JPEG and PNG. The weppy format has reached maturity and is starting to be more widely used across the web.
We can understand if you’re wondering why we need yet another image format. The reason is that WebP was developed to take the best parts of PNG, JPEG, and GIF and blend these all together into one new format. Weppy offers an alternative image format that has both lossy and lossless compression. The result is smaller files that are rich, high-quality images and animations.
Here’s a quick overview of WebP:
- Different file extension: WebP’s file extension is .webp found at the end of the file name.
- Type of compression: WebP supports lossy and lossless compression, which is more efficient than both JPEGs and PNGs.
- Transparent backgrounds: PNGs are commonly used when transparency is desired; however, it takes larger file sizes to accomplish this. On the other hand, WebP can be used for lossless transparency instead, without the large file size.
- Animation support: WebP supports animation in a small format rather than the larger files of the animated GIFs.
WebP vs PNG vs JPEG vs GIF
WebP has the ability to significantly reduce JPEG, PNG, and GIF image file sizes by quite a bit. Google’s run tests to show how their “new” image format compares:
- WebP vs PNG: WebP is on average 26% smaller in size than PNGs.
- WebP vs JPEG: WebP images are 25-35% smaller than comparable JPEG files.
- WebP vs GIF: Animated GIFs converted to lossy WebPs were 64% smaller, and lossless files were 19% smaller.
What are the Advantages of WebP?
The main advantage of WebP is its ability to create small file sizes, but what advantages does this have for your website?
No Compromise on Image Quality
When PNGs, JPEGs, and GIFs are compressed, there’s a noticeable loss of image quality. However, WebP can produce a smaller file without the image quality taking a hit.
Increase Website Performance
Website page speed is an essential factor when it comes to ranking in search engines. Pages that are heavy (with lots of data to load) can cause slower page speeds that reduce site performance. On the other hand, WebP images have smaller file sizes, making web pages lighter and faster to load. The faster page speed makes site visitors happier, too, which can lead to an increase in conversion rates.
Takes Less Bandwidth
Bandwidth speed is the rate at which the server transfers site data to visitors. This is another essential factor for your website. If you use WebP files, these can free up bandwidth, which can be helpful with image-intensive sites such as portfolios, photography blogs, and online stores.
JPEGs, GIFs, and PNGs have their own uses. For instance, PNGs are used for their transparency and GIFs for their animated images. WebP is a blend of these three formats and can support transparent and animated images.
Increase Search Engine Rankings
Site speed is a crucial factor for search engine optimization (SEO). So, using smaller WebP files can increase site performance and help your site rank higher in the search engines. In addition, WebP files also optimise your Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), which is Google’s core vitals metric of how long content takes to load above the fold. Your site’s much faster if you rely on WebP files.
Are There Any Disadvantages of WebP?
The WebP image format has many benefits; however, there are certain issues that could be called disadvantages:
Designed for the Internet: the WebP format has been designed for the Internet; if the images are used offline, it’s important to use a PNG or JPEG copy. So, you’ll need at least two copies of each image file.
Some browsers don’t support WebP: while WebP is supported in most browsers, such as Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Safari, and Firefox, not all previous versions of these browsers are supported. So, it’s necessary to have a backup image to display to users who aren’t using a supported browser.
Check application support: not all computer programs support the WebP file format yet. However, with Photoshop 23.2 and newer, it is possible to open WebP files. If you use an older version or a different program, you may need to install a plugin to make edits to WebP files.
Can You Use It?
Browser support is found with the major browsers (see above); however, the use of this file format is still being rolled out across platforms. Over time, it’s expected that most platforms and browsers will support this file format.
If you want to manipulate (scale, resize, etc.) or create WebP images within web apps, you’ll need server-side support. This is something that it’s essential to check with your hosting provider. Some have already started integrating WebP support, but not all.
What About WordPress?
Starting with WordPress 5.8, it is possible to use WebP images just like you would use JPEG, PNG, and GIF files. All you need to do is upload the images to your Media Library and include them in your content. From WordPress 5.8 and on, the WebP format is supported by default. So, it’s not necessary to use third-party plugins to upload and use WebP images.
However, about 5% of people (those who mainly use older MacOS and Safari) use a web browser that doesn’t support WebP. If you convert WebP images and use them in the content, these visitors will not see the images, and their user experience will suffer.
In addition, generating WebP images isn’t as easy as getting JPEG images. These are usually the default image file format on most smartphones, cameras, and online image libraries. WordPress does not support automatic image conversion with WebP as of yet.
WordPress Plugins for WebP
While that’s true, there are WordPress plugins available that convert your original images into the WebP file format, and that create an extra image for visitors using browsers that don’t support WebP.
For instance, it’s possible to upload a JPEG file to your site and the plugin can:
- Convert JPEG files to WebP and serve the WebP version for Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and more.
- Show the original JPEG file to visitors using older Safari browsers and others that don’t support the WebP format.
With the WordPress plugin, everyone can see the image and experience fast page loading speeds.
Summing It Up
WebP development is a boon for designers and devs who want to speed up their sites. But the file format is also great for freelancers and small businesses who want to get the most out of their hosting plans.