Responsive Design has been a focal point of the web design and development community for the past few years. Essentially, Responsive Design allows a webpage to change its size and orientation to present itself in the best possible way based on viewport size. This technique has revolutionized the way web pages work, but is not without its drawbacks, particularly in the form of responsive images.
Images that scale with screen resolution initially seem like a godsend; a large picture can fill a desktop screen when needed but can also remain fully-visible on a mobile device. Genius! But what happens when a mobile-user without wifi has to download a full HD 1080×1920 pixel image only to display it at one tenth of that resolution? Precious processing power is wasted and the site becomes painfully slow to load. This is just one problem the responsive image community is hoping to solve by creating a standard method for dealing with responsive images.
There is no official solution to this problem yet, but in the meantime many talented developers have been collaboratively pursuing one. <Picturefill> is a polyfill element that uses media queries to present an appropriately-sized image on the page. While it is effective, it is not perfect, and it is still a workaround, not an integrated method for dealing with responsive images. Services like Imagefly provide off-site resizing and formatting of images for a fee. Since the processing is done off-site, this method can severely cut down on load time, so for some sites the added speed can be worth the cost. Still, a standardized, effective solution for responsive images might put this service out of business.
(Photo from ResponsiveImages.org)
The real solution to this problem is expected to come out of the Responsive Images Community Group, a collaborative of developers working together to create a dedicated HTML element to handle responsive images. As of right now the front-runner is a combination of the <picture> and <srcset> elements. Basically, <picture> will be able to create an appropriately-sized reference to display through the original <img> element.
Why is this important for Search Engine Optimization? As Google’s search algorithm becomes more advanced, having an up-to-date site structure will increase web authority and rank the page higher in search results. As responsive sites become the norm, older fixed-position pages will see a loss in search engine ranking. Minimizing loading time can be a large factor in getting conversions as well, since users are more likely to look for other options the longer a site takes to load. Responsive Images can improve both your sites design and ease of interaction while simultaneously increasing search engine optimization.Read More
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