ShortPixel is an image optimisation service designed to compress images and in-turn help speed up webpage loading times. One of the key points of this service is that image optimisation can be performed automatically at varying different levels and with very little to no visible alternation to the image itself if needs be. All together this makes ShortPixel a great website optimisation tool for any size or type of website.
- Effective image optimisation service
- WordPress plugins available
- Great range of developer tools
- Beginner friendly and easy to use
- Helps speed up slow websites
- Helps improve SEO
- Unlimited site licencing
- Pre-purchased credits never expire
- Great value given the features on offer!
What is ShortPixel and How Does it Work?
ShortPixel is an image optimisation service which works by compressing web based images so as to make them smaller in file size. By compressing images they take up less bandwidth whenever a webpage is loaded, this means the webpage itself can be loaded quicker and the entire website will perform at a higher level overall thanks to this optimisation.
ShortPixel offer three types of image compression, each of which will have a varying impact on the quality of the compressed image and the resulting file size which is produced. These types of compression are:
As the name implies this method allows an image to be compressed with no visible difference to the image quality. This works by the compression algorithm grouping sets of identical pixels together and then replacing them with a pointer in the images encoded data file. The net result is an image which looks identical to the uncompressed original but takes up less disk space.
This method allows for further compression and reduction in file size at the expense of a reduction in image quality. This method works by cleverly merging pixels with very similar colours together, as such, these groups can be stored with less space needed thanks to the modified pixels all (in effect) being now treated as the exact same colour. Depending on how aggressive this colour merging is this method can produce a smaller image with either a little or a lot of image degradation visible.
Available exclusively from ShortPixel Glossy compression is a middle ground between the other two compression options (Lossless and Lossy). This is ideal for image heavy sites which need to retain as much image quality as possible but also make some kind of impact on the storage and bandwidth in use.
These three balanced compression options help ensure all different kinds of sites can benefit from image compression and crucially keep the necessary level of image quality necessary for the site.
Images can be compressed with ShortPixel in multiple ways including through a web based interface and automatically via an API, it is the WordPress plugins, however, which will be of the most use to the majority of users.
ShortPixel actually have two main WordPress plugins at time of this review, both of which providing a similar service to each other with one going slightly further with additional features including intelligent cropping and the option to deliver images via a built-in CDN.
ShortPixel WordPress Plugin
The standard ShortPixel WordPress plugin allows ShortPixel users to connect their websites to the ShortPixel service and automatically optimise images as they are uploaded. All of the three main compression methods are supported (Lossless, Lossy and Glossy) and any optimised images are used by default (although the originals can optionally backed up in case they are needed later on).
Once installed the plugin is fairly simple to get setup and use, the main settings page is clear and well laid out and allow users to specify all necessary settings to be used. This includes the type of compression to be used, whether or not to make backups and optionally removing the image meta data (EXIF Data) amongst other options.
Under the advanced settings page we have even more options to further optimise images including the optimisation of PDF documents, the specifying of additional media folders (useful for certain apps) and the ability to convert any PNG images into he JPEG format whenever possible (saving even more space).
We can also from this page ask ShortPixel to produce WebP versions of our images, this is a special form of compression from Google which will reduce the size of both PNG and JPG images by up to 34% whilst still maintaining a high quality image suitable for the majority of website use. If this option is used the theme and or CDN plugin in use must also support WebP so check before using this.
Finally, on the Statistics page there is a summary of the average compression rate along with the disk space and bandwidth saved by the ShortPixel service so far.
ShortPixel Adaptive Images Plugin
The Adaptive images plugin is a separate plugin which builds upon the features found in the first, for example, not only are images compressed but also intelligently cropped and (optionally) served via ShortPixel’s own CDN service to help deliver maximum performance for your site.
Once installed, the WordPress plugin will need to be linked to a ShortPixel account to work properly, once this is done we can then access the full functionality of the plugin.
As with the first plugin we can again set the main type of compression to be used for uploaded images (again, these are lossless, lossy or glossy), we can also choose to optionally generate and attempt to use WebP images whenever they are supported as well.
We also have some additional options here which are not present in the first plugin, these include the fade-in effect which will “lazy load” any images on the page, effectively reducing the initial hit whereby all media would otherwise be loaded despite the users only looking at the top part of the page.
Smart crop can also be turned on here which will intelligently detect instances when a whole image is not being displayed and crop it appropriately.
Under the advanced settings page we also see first evidence of the CDN which is built into this plugin and the ShortPixel service (and at no additional cost, excellent). This setting can be altered to make use of your own CDN instead of the ShortPixel CDN should you so wish.
Other advanced settings include lazy loading background images, optimising CSS files by making use of the CDN for background images and the ability to specify maximum widths for background images.
Both plugins work well and compliment each other nicely by giving a basic optimisation service to those needing it and a more comprehensive image optimisation tool to users seeking a more automated approach.
Other Ways to Use the ShortPixel Service
In addition to the plugins and the web based interface already mentioned ShortPixel provide several other advanced tools to make use of their image compression service. These other tools are mainly aimed at developers and include a PHP library, a command line tool and a “Reducer” API which allows the shrinking of an image gained solely via any given URL. Whilst I suspect the majority of users will opt for the WordPress plugins it is nice to see ShortPixel providing a serious set of tools which allow developers to get the most of of this service.
Examples of ShortPixel in Action
As an illustration of how powerful ShortPixel is I have done a few tests using the different image compression types, to do this I have used a fairly typical 1200x800px JPEG image and run it through the web based image optimiser. Below are the results for the same image across the three main image compression types on offer.
Starting with my test image which is a JPEG file and measures 1165KB in size I have used the ShortPixel web based compression tool to perform a lossless compression. As can be seen below the image has been reduced in size by approximate 11%, this has taken the image from 1165KB to 1037KB whilst sacrificing absolutely zero of the image quality.
If maintaining image quality is of absolute importance then this option is an ideal choose, it doe however offer limited compression savings otherwise at only 11% saving from the original.
As was discussed earlier on the Lossy compression should reduce the size of the file much further at the expense of some loss in image quality. As above I have passed in the same 1165KB JPEG file and this time run it through the Lossy compression.
This compression has made a very significant reduction in the size of the file from 1165KB down to only 76.7KB! This represents a reduction of 94% and as can be seen from the above image there is very little to zero noticeable difference in the image quality. This would be ideal for the majority of websites where the drop in quality is more than made up for in the sizeable reduction of the image.
Finally, the Glossy compression has taken the image size down form 1165KB to 155KB. This compression setting is suppose to maintain a slightly higher image quality than when using lossy but I cant really see any real difference myself.
Maybe this difference will be more apparent to serious photographers but I think of very little additional value over the lossy compression for most users.
As can be seen above all compression options have made a noticeable reduction in the image size with the lossy option making a significant reduction for very little to no noticeable difference in the quality of the image, a very impressive option!
ShortPixel is a premium service, however, I should start by saying they have a very generous free account option which allows users to take advantage of all tools and features for up to 100 images per month. This means that most small websites and bloggers can take advantage of this excellent service without having to spend a penny, fantastic!
Should you have a larger website, perform regular updates or run multiple websites either for yourself or your clients then a premium subscription might be necessary. ShortPixel offer monthly plans from as little as $4.99/month which provides up to 5000 optimisations as well as pre-paid credits (which never expire) and allow for up to 10,000 optimisations for as little as $9.99!
Given the alternatives on the market at present I feel this pricing is not only very competitive but very fair in that a pre-paid credit pack (which doesn’t expire) will work better for many small site owners who don’t want (yet another) subscription to manage.
ShortPixel provide comprehensive online documentation for all aspects of their service, this makes finding answers to common questions in getting started quick and easy. In addition to this further support is provides via an online ticketing support system.
ShortPixel is an excellent service for anyone who owns, runs or otherwise optimises websites in one way or another.
Firstly, the compression itself is very good, having used this service for a while now myself on multiple websites I can attest it really does help make a big difference to page loading speed. The range of tools provided is also impressive and means that website owners, developers and everyone in-between can easily make the best use of this service regardless of their project.
The ShortPixel pricing model is also worthy of special mention, with many services now moving towards monthly subscriptions it is very refreshing to see ShortPixel have the needs of the smaller website owner in mind by providing a pre-paid credits option (which never expires) in addition to a very generous free account for those with less than 100 images per month to optimise.
All in all a very impressive tool which has clearly been built to be the best in its respective field, and I’m pleased to say it clearly is. Well done ShortPixel!