TL; DR: ImageOptim’s web service provides users with a secure and easy way to optimize images so they’re ready for publication on the web. The image processing technology allows users to resize, compress, and remove metadata without installing specialized software or exposing servers to vulnerabilities. With features like progressive rendering, precise algorithms to avoid color shifts, and tuning for high-density displays, ImageOptim helps website owners achieve faster page load speeds and deliver better online experiences for their users.
The internet has come a long way since the early ‘90s, when trying to view a single image on a webpage was nothing short of excruciating.
But as technology marches on, so do user demands. Today, a mere second of additional page load time can decrease conversions and damage SEO.
Google has used speed as a ranking signal for desktop searches since 2010 — and has done the same for mobile searches since July 2018. According to the search engine company, as mobile page load times increase from one to three seconds, the probability of a bounce increases by 32%.
With such low consumer tolerance for online delays, ecommerce businesses and app designers have no choice but to prioritize site performance. One way to crank up the speed is to focus on image optimization. In 2017, Google estimated that 30% of sites could save more than 250KB by merely compressing images and text.
“Users expect web pages to be snappy, loading instantly so they can browse entire category pages full of images without waiting,” said Kornel Lesiński, Founder of ImageOptim. “And with today’s high-resolution displays, there are even more pixels to deliver.”
ImageOptim, available via a Mac application and a web service, provides users with the technology they need to resize, compress, and remove metadata from images to prepare them for publication on the web. The technology even features an option to apply heavy compression tuned especially for high-density Retina displays.
“When I started working on ImageOptim 10 years ago, I used to think, ‘Connection speeds are going to get faster, and eventually I’ll be out of business,’” Kornel told us. “But that’s not true — we’re still as relevant as ever.”
A Free Mac App and Affordable Web and API Solutions
Kornel started ImageOptim as a side project to fill his personal needs while working as a web developer.
“As a web developer, I needed something better than Photoshop’s Save for Web function to compress my images,” he said. “I also needed an excuse to write my first Mac application. To my surprise, I created something that turned out to be super useful for lots of people.”
As he watched the app bloom, Kornel said he realized that developers at organizations of all sizes — from small web agencies to international newspapers — needed better tools for uploading, resizing, and optimizing images.
“At the time, there weren’t good tools for these purposes,” he said. “You could use something like ImageMagick, but you had to deal with many headaches to get it working properly — to not overload your server, to cache results, to deal with thundering-herd problems, and to integrate it with your CMS.”
Other services and functionalities locked users into a relationship with a provider that would charge hefty sums for storage and bandwidth.
“So I took my application and rewrote it as a web service,” Kornel said. “My differentiation is that I don’t lock you in, I give you the optimized files back, and you don’t have to install anything on your server. You don’t have to deal with dependencies. You don’t have to deal with security issues.”
Keep Up with Customer Needs and Security Concerns
Kornel told us ImageMagick and similar tools have contained several vulnerabilities over the years. He said that users who resize images on their own servers using such tools and libraries at risk for unauthorized access to their servers, network, and data.
“Even if you just do something very basic, like chuck the files into a folder on an Apache server, you need to consider risks,” he said. “For example, if you let someone upload a file with a PHP extension, it might get executed as a PHP file by accident. So it’s better to take this all image processing out of your own server and let someone else worry about it — like me.”
Kornel built ImageOptim to be developer-friendly, but over the years, he’s adapted it to improve accessibility for entrepreneurs and small businesses without extensive tech skills who run their own sites.
“Some have set up Magento or WordPress or something, benchmarked the performance of their website, noticed they have slow-loading images, and turned to ImageOptim to optimize them,” he said. “So I try to automate as many technical decisions as possible.”
With a significant disparity in network speeds, sometimes there’s no such thing as a single image that’s perfect for all end users — but ImageOptim strikes a happy balance between compression and quality.
“One person might be on a fiber connection and have no problem, and then get on the road on a slow 3G connection, which is 1,000 times slower,” Kornel said. “Or they’ll go to a bar in a basement, and there will be on a 2G connection, which is even slower.”
Ensuring a Streamlined User Experience
ImageOptim boasts an impressive list of features, including easy functionality via drag-and-drop, file, scrubbing, resizing, and simple integration through an API. But Kornel told us what ultimately makes the app shine is its simplicity.
“Many people come to me and say, ‘I need this feature, why can’t you just add one button?” But if I kept saying yes every time 50 different people ask me for 50 different features, ImageOptim would be like a dashboard of a space shuttle — and then nobody would understand how to use it. I think it has lasting power because it’s focused on just doing one thing and doing it well.”
Instead, Kornel focuses on improving underlying algorithms to remain technically competitive under the hood. He said that moving to the web in the way of an API was a bit of a challenge as the sole developer on the project.
“As a business run by a single person, I have to worry not just about having the best algorithm, but also ensuring that the API stays up 24/7, that it scales whenever a big customer joins me, that everything runs fast and smoothly.”
Coming Up: Expanded Image Formats
Kornel may not be adding clunky buttons to the ImageOptim apps in the feature, but he said he will continue to optimize its supporting algorithms.
He told us he’s also planning on adding additional image formats to the program.
“For a while, we had the Google WebP format, but there is no room to optimize it further,” he said. “Now there are new formats, like AVIF format by Alliance for Open Media and JPEG XL that are half of the size of previous image formats. So the next step for me is to help people adopt these new formats.”