Overview: Optimizing Your Portfolio – Part II
Welcome to Part II of our series: Optimizing Your Portfolio. If you’ve missed Part I, you can find it here. In this article we will cover 3 topics: Hosting, why it’s important and how to select the right hosting provider for your needs. Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), what is it and which are the recommended providers. Image Optimization, why it’s important and how it should be done.
In most cases, these 3 factors are the main reason why your website is performing poorly, so please approach them as any other key business decision.
Why hosting is important?
Speed matters. The simple fact is, users want to see your content, and they want to see it fast. Slow loading sites lead to frustration and the likely hood that your visitors will go elsewhere. You’re selling a service, whilst it’s different than a shop, your potential clients still have to view your “product” which is your images. Also speed is one of the highest ranking components for SEO according to google, so the faster the better. Of course cost will be a factor when deciding which hosting provider to choose, but remember the investment now will pay it dividends later.
Recommended hosting providers
With so many options available, which hosting provider should you choose? Firstly, I’d stay well away from GoDaddy or NameCheap, whilst they are great at offering domain names, their hosting packages are just not powerful enough for WordPress. I’d also suggest avoiding Bludomain, since past customers experiences have been horrible, the speed is slow, and customer service is nonexistent. With that said, who should you choose? The following 2 recommended providers are our choice for 2016 (both are WordPress hosting solutions):
SiteGround – Best shared hosting option – starting from $3.95 they are the best value hosting provider for new and smaller businesses. They do extremely well in stress tests for a shared hosting plan, customer service is second to none and as it’s WordPress hosted your WordPress site will load fast. An added bonus, they manage your WordPress updates for you, making sure that its secure. I would recommend the GrowBig package, as the caching options are better, and it also offers twice the number of processes per hour.
WP Engine – Fastest and most secure WordPress hosted solution. Packages start from $29 per month for one site. Whilst considerably more expensive, WP Engine offers lighting fast speeds for users with larger requirements, an easy to use control panel and excellent customer support. If you’re a growing business and seeing higher amounts of traffic then WP Engine will make sense for your business.
Of course there are many other options on the market, just remember to do your research and choose wisely, don’t get caught up on price alone. You can see the full list of our recommended hosting providers here.
What is a CDN?
CDNs are not for everyone, they should be seen as the final option for really optimizing your site. It depends on your budget and needs, if all the other options haven’t helped then a CDN will do the trick, especially if serving a large base of international clients. The following 2 are viable and affordable solutions for photographers’ needs:
MaxCDN – pricing starts at $9 a month for 2 sites, for up to 100GB bandwidth. Their solution is great for most small to medium website owners, and is easy to implement. MaxCDN is a popular and well-known CDN that powers the likes of The Next Web, Garmin, Kodak and WP Engine.
Cloudfare – Offering a free basic plan Cloudfare is useful for testing out a CDN and improving speed. Paid packages start from $20 per site. Unlike many CDNs, CloudFlare doesn’t charge for bandwidth usage. On the basis that if your site suddenly gets popular or suffers an attack, you shouldn’t accumulate a huge bandwidth bill. According to CloudFlare, on average a website using the CDN will load twice as fast, use 60 % less bandwidth, have 65 % fewer requests, and is more secure. Used by Reddit, Zendesk and MIT.
Why optimizing images is important
According to Google images often account for most of the downloaded bytes on a web page and also often occupy a significant amount of visual space. As a result, optimizing images can often yield some of the largest byte savings and performance improvements for your website. The fewer bytes the browser has to download, the less competition there is for the client’s bandwidth. Thus less bytes, the faster the browser can download and render useful content on the screen.
As photographers you will want to upload the best quality images for your site, just take into account page speed. As mentioned previously, slow sites can reduce visitors’ time on your site. Taking time to focus on image optimization before uploading your images to the web is vital. Thankfully there are many ways to compress images without losing the quality, which I’ll explain below:
Lightroom, Photoshop or GIMP
With the above tools you can easily batch save and optimize images for the web. The following tutorial explains how to save images using Photoshop, and the following article explains how to do it in batches. The same principles apply for Lr. When saving images for galleries, you should batch resize by height. We recommend 1000px in height. For slideshow images the height should be 1280px. For blog posts, images should be saved by width, and the max recommended size is 1200px.
You can view full image sizing options for Flothemes here.
JPEGmini is another great tool used for post processing images and losslessly reducing the picture in terms of bytes. This means that your images will still look great but load faster. JPEGmini is so simple, a toddler could use it. Simply drag the images into the application and let it work. You can also resize images and export them directly to a new folder. You can find more details on JPEGmini here and see how it works here.
Already uploaded your images and don’t have the time to check and re-do them? You can use a plugin such as WP Smush Pro to reduce the file sizes losslessly right in your WordPress dashboard. This is great if you have an existing site or blog and feel that it’s running slowly. Just install the plugin and bulk Smush all your images. Even better, it has the option to smush your images on upload, so going forward you will know that all your images are going to be optimized for web. There is a free version available, however the Pro version does a much better job and at $19 a month is a great option to consider.
That concludes part II of Optimizing Your Portfolio. Hopefully we have uncovered some insights into 3 viable ways that you can optimize your portfolio. Whilst switching hosting is not for everyone, it should be considered when your hosting plan is about to expire. Quicker loading times increases the likely hood that users will stay on your site, view your content, thus increasing potential conversions. Ignoring these factors can lead to a poor performing website and higher bounce rates. Again CDN networks will not be for all users, however give Cloudfares free plan a go and see if it’s worth the extra expenditure. Optimizing your images is a must for any portfolio, if possible make sure to do this before you upload them to the web – it will save server space and loading times for your users. If you’ve already uploaded a large number of unoptimized images then WP Smush Pro is going to be your best bet to bring down your loading times. Good Luck!