Choosing the right image format for the right task

Ever wondered what makes a website complete? A website isn’t complete unless it’s got all the elements that make it work perfectly on all the web browsers. And to make that possible, a web developer takes care of many things other than the HTML and CSS codes. For example, a complete website would have an SEO friendly and W3C validated code, smooth navigation, pixel perfect layout, web typography, a color scheme that suits the business and optimized images. And today, we are going to discuss the importance of images on a website, and what format one should select while making a website.

Images are an integral part of any website. And just as the saying goes, ‘A picture paints a thousand words’, images make a website more impactful. However, there are various formats an image can come in, like JPEG, PNG, GIF, etc., and deciding on what format should be used on the website could be a tough task.

Here’s throwing some light to dispel doubts and apprehensions related to them.

JPEG

JPEG is one of the most popular image formats, and it stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group. Basically, image files saved in JPEG are very ‘lossy’, which means that the visual quality of an image is reduced from the original image when it is saved in a JPEG file format. The main reason behind this is that JPEG compresses most of the graphics used in an image so that the image file size stays on the lower side.

People using digital cameras in today’s time can easily click and save their images in the JPEG file format. Additionally, the JPEG file format is known as the most web-friendly image file format as its size remains smaller than other available image formats, and it needs less space. That doesn’t hinder the website’s page loading speed by much. Moreover, JPEG images are less grainy than GIF images, the format which was used before JPEG and PNG came into the picture.

Advantages of JPEG:

  • JPEG images are rich in colors, which makes them perfect for photographs that require specific attention to the colors.
  • They are 24-bit, and support up to 16 million colors.
  • JPEG is one of the most preferred image file formats.
  • It is compatible with most of the computer operating systems, such as Mac, PC, and Linux.

Disadvantages of JPEG:

  • It doesn’t offer high visual quality.
  • Animation can’t be used in this file format.
  • It doesn’t support image transparency.

GIF

GIF is one of the oldest image file formats used on the web, and the file extension GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format, which is restricted to an 8-bit palette and supports only 256 colors. This file format is still popular, and people use GIF images on their websites as their size is pretty small compared with other image formats.

The GIF compression works in two different ways:

  • It trims down the number of colors in rich color images, thus dropping the number of bits per pixel.
  • It swaps the multiple occurring patterns, basically the large ones, and clubs them into one. For example, rather than storing five shades of the color‘red’, it stores only one red color.

The GIF file format is most appropriate for cartoons, graphics, logos, and diagrams made using only a few colors. However, for animated images, it is still preferred widely.

If compared to the JPEG file format, it is lossless and more efficient at compressing one-color images, but lacks quality in detailed pictures. Therefore, GIF images are good if they carry 256 colors or below that, but if you need more impactful images, then it won’t be an appropriate choice as you may lose up to 99% of their colors.

On the other hand, if you need great page loading speed for your website, GIF could prove to be the best solution because of its interlacing feature.

Advantages of GIF:

  • It supports transparency.
  • Good for images with a little animation effect.
  • The GIF images are of ‘lossless’ quality. However, the images should carry only 256 colors.
  • It works great for images with limited colors.

Disadvantages of GIF:

  • It only and only supports 256 colors.
  • It’s the oldest image format as it has existed since 1989, and since then it hasn’t been updated even once.
  • Sometimes the file size can exceed the file size of the PNG format.

PNG

PNG is another widely popular image format, which is quite famous for transparent images. This file format was introduced with the intention of replacing GIF as an image format. The file extension PNG stands for Portable Network Graphics. This image file format came into existence only a few years back. Many people aren’t even much familiar with it as other file formats such as JPEG and GIF.

The PNG file format has been made exclusively for images used on the web. One can even call it the greater version of the GIF because the images saved in the PNG format are stored with 256 colors maximum. However, it maintains the color details more precisely, and it also lets the user save images with an 8-bit transparency.

PNG also supports 24-bit color images. The animated image formats that are derived from PNG are MNG and APNG, which are also supported by leading web browsers like Opera and Mozilla Firefox.

Advantages of PNG:

  • PNG images are ‘lossless’, hence they don’t lose their original quality after compression.
  • PNG is better than GIF in many ways. For example, it saves an image in a smaller file size than the GIF file format.
  • It handles the transparency feature much better than the GIF.

Disadvantages of PNG:

  • It isn’t good for larger sized images as it tends to save them into a very large file, which can even surpass the file size created by the JPEG format.
  • It doesn’t support animated images.
  • Many web browsers don’t support PNG.

By now, we assume at least some of your doubts must’ve been addressed about which image file format you should use while placing images on your website. If you have any questions or suggestions, you can post them via the comment box given below.

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ABOUT CODINGACE

My name is Nohman Habib and I am a web developer with over 10 years of experience, programming in Joomla, Wordpress, WHMCS, vTiger and Hybrid Apps. My plan to start codingace.com is to share my experience and expertise with others. Here my basic area of focus is to post tutorials primarily on Joomla development, HTML5, CSS3 and PHP.

Nohman Habib

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