Although images are essential, they can quickly increase the bulk of your websites, resulting in slow load speeds. Unless your site has very few pages, manually optimizing each image is a time-consuming task. Even if you do it, there is no direct way to upload next-gen image formats like WebP.
That’s why there are tools to automate the job. ShortPixel is one such tool that helps you to compress and optimize images automatically. In this review, we will see the important features that make ShortPixel useful.
Earlier, I have also written a post about the top image optimization plugins. If you haven’t read it, take a look at it as well.
ShortPixel offers an optimum balance between features and ease of use. Here are the top things that make it a great tool.
Without the ability to easily optimize your existing media library, an optimization plugin won’t be that useful. ShortPixel wins here with its one-click bulk optimization feature.
The plugin adds an additional sub-menu item to the WordPress Media section. From there, you can run start compressing the images you had uploaded earlier.
WebP is a next-generation image format supported and favored by Google.
While running speed tests on Google Page Speed Insights, you might have seen a suggestion to use next-generation image formats. It points towards nothing but WebP.
In terms of compression, WebP is superior to both JPEG and PNG formats. Like PNG, it supports transparency as well.
In my opinion, WebP support is one of the main reasons to choose ShortPixel.
Since WebP is more than 25% smaller in size than the corresponding JPEG, activating it will be highly beneficial if you have a photo-heavy website.
Different Compression Algorithms
The plugin offers three types of compression algorithms for you to choose from.
Lossy is the default and recommended setting which offers the maximum reduction while lossless does not cause any degradation in image quality.
Glossy stands somewhat in between. It tries to retain the maximum quality while compressing it. It will be useful for photography websites where quality is critical.
Image Quality: Lossless > Glossy > Lossy
Compression: Lossy > Glossy > Lossless
Restore & re-optimize from backups
ShortPixel allows you to keep your original non-optimized images in a separate backup folder.
This enables two things:
- You can re-optimize any image later with a different compression setting.
- You can restore original files itself. This will clean up all the optimized files from your server.
In case you don’t want to keep the originals, you can turn backups off. It can save a lot of server space.
Exif Data Removal
Although Exif data increases the image size by only a small fraction, removing it is a good idea if it is unwanted.
Generous Free Plugin
With over 200k installations, ShortPixel’s Image Optimization plugin is highly rated among the optimization plugins. The free version is fully functional, but you can compress only 100 images in a month.
Apart from this, there is another plugin – Adaptive Images – which allows you to serve scaled images from a CDN.
Non-WordPress Website Optimization
Even if your site is not on WordPress, you can still use ShortPixel. For that, you have to download a ZIP package and install it in the root directory of your website.
Run the optimization after selecting the image folders.
If you prefer to optimize image programatically, you can make use of ShortPixel’s Reducer API.
It allows you to send HTTP Post requests. The data sent should contain a list of image URLs you want to compress along with your unique API key.
How to Set Up
Now, I will walk you through the steps to configure the plugin on your WordPress site.
Go to the Plugins section and install ShortPixel plugin and activate it.
On activation, you will be greeted with a page asking for your email address. Or if you had already signed up earlier, you can enter the API key instead.
Once you have a valid API key, you can access the settings page from Settings > ShortPixel.
The page is organized into four tabs:
- Cloudflare API
I will explain one by one.
From the General tab, you can configure all the important settings.
- Compression type: Lossy is the recommended type.
- Include Thumbnail: Keep this box checked for optimizing thumbnail images also.
- Backup: In case you want to restore the originals, keep this box checked. Otherwise, uncheck it to save disk space if you are on a budget server.
- Exif removal: I usually prefer to remove Exif for images. However, if you are a photographer, Exif can be useful since it contains copyright info.
- Resizing: If there are huge images in your library (eg., photos directly out of camera), you can choose to resize them.
The Advanced tab includes more settings options including the WebP checkbox. Given below are the settings I currently use on this site:
Note: If you check WebP, it will create an additional *.webp file for each image in your uploads folder, including the thumbnails. Shared hosts usually impose an Inode limit. So, ensure that you don’t hit the limits before turning on webp.
At the bottom, you can select the thumbnail sizes to exclude from optimization. For example, the smallest thumbnail is usually tiny. Compressing it only gives negligible gains. So you can exclude it. Also, there may be additional sizes registered by certain themes or plugins that you may want to exclude.
Since ShortPixel plans (see below) come with monthly limits, excluding thumbnail helps to reserve your quota.
Once you are satisfied with the options, click Save and Go to Bulk Process.
If you don’t use Cloudflare, skip this part. Otherwise, it can help ShortPixel to keep your images updated on Cloudflare cache when you re-optimize images. For that, you have to enter two things:
- Zone ID
- Cloudflare token
Check out this help article to learn how to do it.
This section shows your usage statistics. You can view the following details:
- Average percentage of compression
- Disk and bandwidth savings
- Your current plan details – consumed credits, remaining credits, renewal date
- Original images backup size
Running Bulk Optimization
On the Bulk Optimization page, you can see the total number of images going to be optimized. There are no further options here except a checkbox to include or exclude thumbnails.
Click Start Optimizing.
The process gives a live progress bar showing the percentage of completion. Along with it, you can see the rate of optimization also.
Performance – Before & After Optimization
For testing the plugin, I set up a page on WordPress with eight images – four PNGs and four JPEGs. The images were randomly chosen from Pexels.com and Pixabay.com.
These were the results before optimization:
Here are the results after optimizing the images (using lossy compression):
|Total page size||951.3KB||504.5KB|
|Total image size||842KB||395KB|
So, after compressing, the total image size reduced by 53%.
Note: In case your load times do not improve after compression, it can be due to other factors or inconsistency between tests. So, run multiple tests and take the average.
Plans & Pricing
ShortPixel comes with a fully working free plan. However, the 100 images/month limit won’t be sufficient for most users.
If you have more images to compress, they offer both monthly and one-time plans.
Monthly plans start at $4.99/month for 5k images while one-time plans start at $9.99 for 10k images.
Optimizing each image manually can be a tedious task. Tools like ShortPixel make it easier.
With an impressive feature-list and competitive pricing, you can definitely consider this plugin for compressing images without spending any time.
Since the compression occurs remotely, it won’t overload your servers.
Although we reviewed it from a WordPress user’s standpoint, it gives a useful API which you can use for non-WordPress sites also.
Note: If your images are served from remote storages like S3, image manipulation plugins like ShortPixel can face trouble working. The compatibility often depends on the method you use to offload media.