I am often asked which image optimization systems I recommend with WordPress. There are many available now and it is also important to talk about their compatibility with my plugins as well. I will start with the basics in a What do to? section, then talk about What to avoid? and introduce to you the different solutions.
If you want to have a quick answer on how to optimize your images, go check the All-in-One Solutions at the end of this article, this is currently my recommendation and my favorite service.
What to do?
- Optimize your images. When they are uploaded to WordPress, many sizes (thumbnails) are created. They are usually bigger (in file size) than they should. They should go through an image optimizer. It is usually a plugin which run the optimization either on your WordPress install directly, or on a remote server.
- Serve your image (and your static files) faster. That is where you need a Content Distribution Network. A CDN is a service that stores your images (and your static files, such as your scripts and CSS files) on very fast servers everywhere around the globe in order to serve them at the highest speed possible. You do not need to upload your images manually to the CDN (otherwise, that is not a very friendly CDN), but you need to have a plugin (or some kind of HTML rewriter) to modify the content of your website before it is send to the browser. Then, the CDN will mirror all your static files automatically and serve them faster.
What to avoid?
Avoid using S3 with WordPress. Don’t even think about it. For now. It was not meant to be used with S3, and even if there are plugins allowing you to do that, it is a hack.
I don’t doubt it is an interesting idea, unfortunately, you will encounter many issues, with many plugins as many core functions of WordPress will stop working properly. If you are hosting your WordPress on a serverless kind of service, it might make a bit more sense but still, I would still not recommend it.
On top of this, S3 is not a CDN. It will not make things faster, and might even slow them down in comparison with a good hosting service. To make it fast, you will need CloudFront (Amazon’s CDN) on top of it. This all comes with an additional cost on your hosting, and issues. When WordPress will handle remote storages natively, it will be safe to use. For now, stay away from it.
Avoid using JetPack. It might look simpler at first, but it is better to handpick the best solutions for you instead of using a solution overloaded with too many features and restrictions. I am not saying it is necessarily a bad plugin, but I would go for lighter and more focused solutions.
Here is a list of plugins that I have tested. They all work pretty well.
- EWWW Image Optimizer. The developer is super friendly and enthusiastic, he really does his best for his clients and compatibility with other plugins. The plugin works very well. The only downside is that the UI looks a bit clunky and it might not super easy to use for the average user. Works with WP Retina 2x and WP/LR Sync.
- ShortPixel. The developers worked with me on the compatibility very nicely. I used this plugin and it also worked perfectly for me. It’s simpler than EWWW but has fewer options and no free alternative. Works with WP Retina 2x and WP/LR Sync.
- SmushIt. They contacted me to work on the compatibility in the past, so it should still work. The plugin is simple and works well. However, I feel like it reset the optimized status of the images from time to time. Much simpler than EWWW, quite similar to ShortPixel actually. Should works with WP Retina 2x and WP/LR Sync.
- Imagify. They have a friendly team and they are the same guys behind WP Rocket, so optimization is their domain. It worked perfectly on my install, it is also extremely simple. However, it does not work yet with WP/LR Sync.
- CDN77. The best CDN for me currently. It is super fast, the system is very neat and easy to install. I am currently using it for my website Haikyo, with a custom CDN subdomain.
- MaxCDN. Another good option. The most famous CDN service. Affordable, fast, but slightly more difficult to set up than CDN77.
- CloudFlare. If you are looking for a free alternative, then have a look at it. If you are looking for performance, the services above are better, but you can still use CloudFlare for security purposes (it has a lot of features).
- Fastly. If you are looking for the best performance possible, and if you have a technical team and quite a lot of money, then you might be interested in it. Their speed is the most impressive.
I have been looking for a long time for a solution that does it all, asked many services if they could implement it, and I have even been tempted into starting this offer myself, which is not easy. Finally, there is a service that does it, and it is called ImageKit!
It is not the cheapest, but it is the easiest and the best. It doesn’t require a specific plugin on your end (but you still need to find a way to modify the HTML). I am currently using it on my Offbeat Japan website, through an SSL subdomain, which is really nice.
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Anything to say? Need help?
Did you find a better solution? Do you have an opinion about one of those services? Do not hesitate to participate in the comments. If you need help to make your website faster, do not hesitate to contact Meow Apps.