It’s so exciting to build your own website! You’ll have a feeling of accomplishment when it’s done, and you’ll save lots of money. It’s great being able to use your own photos, right? You read somewhere that all you have to know is how to type a document with a computer and that’s it! Or is it?
The Slow Website Movement
But now your site loads more slowly than this guy talks. Forums everywhere, including the Genesis one I answer questions on, are littered with questions about this. Apart from having cheap and rotten website hosting (very common), there is one key cause: Those wonderful photos you put up there. How embarrassing is that? In fact, this page loads slowly because I’ve deliberately done wrong things here to illustrate my point. 🙂
Did you upload the photos directly from your camera without editing them at all? Oh oh. The normal size of a photo in your camera is usually enormous, way bigger than you need on your website. I’ll show you what I mean. Here’s Saffy at a pretty normal and good size:
Leon Saffy Is Getting Larger
Now let’s see what Saffy looks like at a very big size. By the way, this is still smaller than typical in-camera photo size. In fact, some highly geeky readers may notice that the image below is actually larger than what you’re seeing! That’s because my theme’s CSS code is shrinking it, so to speak. On other themes, the image may be covering up much of the sidebar – yuck.
If you click on her image below, you’ll see the Massive Absurd Size (some browsers will actually try to resize it for you – if so, try clicking again on the photo to see full size).
By the way, Massive Absurd Size can be just right if you want a large background image for the whole site. But not in a Page, a Post, or as your logo.
Why Should I Care?
Even if you like photos that are too large, or think that a too-huge photo that still looks OK is fine, think again. Google will penalize you for a slow-loading site. Your ranking may get worse. More importantly, visitors of slow sites get annoyed and leave, even if it’s just a few seconds, and of course they’re not telling you. So your site could become a ghost town.
What’s A Feline To Do?
Are you willing to learn and want to try editing photos? Here’s a nice free Windows program for that: Irfanview. Here are some ideas for Mac. I’m sure there are also phone apps that can be used for this, too.
Still want to magically fix this problem and aren’t willing to hire competent help or do some learning? 😉 If you have WordPress, you could try this plugin, which optimizes photos as you upload them, EWWW, possibly the best plugin name ever. No guarantees – someone with serious photo negligence can easily defeat any automated optimization.
Another Rookie Mistake
Here’s another photo. She’s gorgeous, and the photo is large, but not ridiculous-sized. Then what’s wrong? Very little – maybe nothing. But she illustrates another very common and much subtler mistake. Let’s say you have her photo at the top of your page. And right below her you have what you consider important ad copy, or the key text of your Post that you want people to read. If someone is viewing the site with a laptop or an iPad (or anything smaller), they won’t see your text copy without scrolling down. That’s a user annoyance. They may even be mesmerized into not scrolling at all!
In fact, she illustrates another point. Her photo is much taller than it is wide. This is “portrait” orientation. If a photo is wider than it is tall, that’s “landscape” orientation. Many of you out there are saying, “duh”, but here’s the point – let’s say you want to have a photo slider on your site like so many others do (in fact, now it’s an overused cliché). And you have a mix of portrait and landscape photos. This will NOT work in a slider, which needs photos that are all in the same orientation and edited to be the same size, or it will look horrible. For many people, this isn’t obvious.
You might ask, can’t you edit the photos to get them to fit the slider? If they’re not in the same orientation, no way, not without cutting off huge portions of the photo to get them to fit, which will ruin the original photo’s effect.
There is one workaround I have used that may help. If you use a lightbox style photo gallery, it will have pop-ups that use the full screen, and may adjust enough to allow some orientation mixing. There are many lightbox implementations to choose from. But if the size and orientation differences are too extreme, it will still look awful.
Dirty Secret That No One Is Telling You
Notice that I haven’t even talked about poor quality photos per se, just wrong sizing and editing. Many clients want me to magically fix photos that are poorly lit, out of focus, over-exposed, under-exposed, TMI, or just esthetically bad in lots of ways. I have many editing tricks, such as the time a plastic surgeon asked me to retouch all photos of him to make him look younger (no, I’m not joking). But truly bad photos are beyond repair.
Not everyone is skilled at photography (except you, of course!). If your skills are iff-y, you should hire a pro photographer, especially if you’re going to use one of those trendy hipster themes that uses really huge photos in the background and elsewhere. The bigger the photo, the more obvious every small mistake is. As a compromise, you could also buy some quality stock photos (just like Microsoft sometimes does).
I hope this gives you some ideas you can use to improve your site!