These three WordPress plugins enable you to optimize your images easily, and even customize the way the process works. What’s more, using a plugin means you don’t have to go searching for an external solution. All of these free image optimization tools can get the job done, but each has its own unique set of advantages and features.
Why it’s smart to optimize your WordPress site’s images
Images are key to nearly every website. They enhance your site’s appearance, can be used to show off your products or work, and a whole lot more. However, the more images you have on your site, the more work a visitor’s browser has to do in order to load its pages.
This is because image file sizes can be fairly large, and all that data adds up quickly. Consequently, your site can slow down as you add media to it – which is detrimental to attracting and retaining visitors. The solution, as you may have guessed, is image optimization.
When you optimize your site’s images, you’re making their file sizes smaller and less of a burden. At the same time, this can be accomplished without a noticeable reduction in the images’ quality. Fortunately, all you need to accomplish this is the right WordPress plugin – which is why we’re comparing Imagify vs WP Smush vs ShortPixel in this review.
Imagify vs WP Smush vs ShortPixel: In a nutshell
Throughout the rest of this article, we’re going to look at three popular image optimization plugins: Imagify vs WP Smush vs ShortPixel. However, if you’re in a rush, let’s break down the primary details about each tool upfront.
All of these stats refer to the free versions of the plugins (except for the final pricing row, which gives the cost for the premium versions):
This is just a snapshot, of course. Keep reading for the full story on how Imagify vs WP Smush vs ShortPixel fare in a direct comparison.
Imagify vs WP Smush vs ShortPixel: A full comparison
Before we can look at how Imagify vs WP Smush vs ShortPixel compare to one another, we need to introduce them. Let’s take a quick look at these plugins, one by one.
First up, WP Smush is perhaps the most popular image compression plugin for WordPress.
This tool is developed by the team at WPMU DEV, and boasts some powerful servers to pare down your images quickly. It’s also compatible with a wide range of media library enhancement plugins, which can be a useful bonus.
Next, we have Imagify.
Also a popular choice; this plugin offers various levels of compression, so you can achieve a solid balance between performance and quality.
It also optimizes thumbnail and Retina images, which is a nice touch.
Last but not least, there’s ShortPixel.
This is a simpler and more lightweight option, which is great if you just want to optimize your images quickly and without too much fuss.
At the same time, it offers a fair amount of customization in terms of how your images are compressed.
Round 1: Comparing key features and pricing
In a very basic sense, these three WordPress plugins do the same thing. They all compress your images so they’re less of a drain on your site’s performance, while attempting to maintain as high a quality as possible. In addition, these tools will both compress your existing images, and any new ones you upload.
This can make it a little confusing when you try to compare Imagify vs WP Smush vs ShortPixel and pick a winner. However, each does offer a somewhat different feature set. In addition, while all three plugins are free in their base versions, their premium tiers come in at a variety of price points.
- Set maximum dimensions for your site’s images, and uploads will be automatically scaled down when necessary.
- Compress images in any folder or directory on your site, not just your media library.
- Optimize JPEG, GIF, and PNG images one at a time or in bulk (up to 50 files at once).
- Convert PNGs to JPEGs automatically, keep copies of your full-sized images as a backup, and optimize images up to 32MB (premium only).
The Pro version of WP Smush offers a wider range of features, simplifying the task of image optimization and giving you more customization options. However, you will require a membership to WPMU DEV in order to access it, which will cost you $49 per month (but does come bundled with a number of other useful plugins and tools).
- Optimize regular images, thumbnails, and retina images from WP Retina 2x.
- Compress all your existing image files in bulk.
- Choose from three levels of compression – Normal, Aggressive, and Ultra.
- Store your original full-sized images in a secure backup, so they can be restored at any time.
In this case, the free and premium versions of the plugin offer the same feature set. The difference lies in how many files you’re allowed to optimize. The free plugin lets you optimize 25MB worth of data per month (which is about 250 images), while the paid plans start at $4.99 per month for 1GB of data (about 1,000 images).
- Bulk compress all your images with a single click.
- Optimize images outside of the media library, such as those added via other plugins.
- Compress JPEG, PNG, GIF, WebP, and PDF files, either in a lossy or lossless format.
- Automatically resize images to set dimensions before they are optimized.
Like Imagify, the free and premium tiers of ShortPixel provide the same functionality. However, the free version only lets you optimize up to 100 images per month. Alternately, you can pay $4.99 to optimize 5,000 images per month (which should be more than enough for most sites).
Round 2: Comparing ease of use and performance
Now we’ve seen what each plugin has to offer in theory, let’s take a look at what it’s like to actually use Imagify vs WP Smush vs ShortPixel. In this section, we’re going to walk through how to optimize an image using the free version of each plugin.
The goal here is twofold. First, we’ll provide an overview of the ease of use and customizability on offer when using Imagify vs WP Smush vs ShortPixel. In addition, we’ll take a look at the resulting quality of the compressed images to see how well they hold up after being optimized. Let’s get to work!
Simply enter your email to create a free account.
You can optimize your images here if you want. Alternately, take the API key in the email you received after signing up for an account, and enter it into your WP dashboard. This will give you access to the same options within WordPress itself:
Imagify compressed the image by 39.7%, and as you can see the quality has been well maintained. There’s a slight blurring in the second photo, but it’s largely unnoticeable.
Now, for the PNG test:
This one was reduced by 36.0%, and the reduction in quality is also very slight. There’s a difference, but not a terribly significant one.
Overall, the plugin did a great job of reducing our test images’ weight without impacting their quality. Plus, the customization on offer here is a useful feature.
Like Imagify, setting up ShortPixel takes a few quick steps. Under the new Settings > ShortPixel tab within WordPress, you’ll need to request a free API key:
You’ll have to create an account with ShortPixel, then enter your key on the above page. Next, you’ll be presented with the full settings page:
Auto-optimize is always on with this plugin. Therefore, simply upload a new image to your media library in order to compress it. You won’t see the same level of information about how much the file size was reduced with ShortPixel, however – you’ll need to check out the new image directly if you want to see the results.
Here’s our original JPEG again. For a fair comparison, we again went with the middle setting (Glossy):
The image was compressed by 50.0% this time. Again, it’s just a bit blurred, but is very similar to the original image (and indistinguishable from the compressed Imagify photo).
Next up, our PNG tests:
This one was reduced by 62.3%. There’s just the slightest reduction in quality from the original image, but the result is a bit clearer and brighter than the compressed Imagify PNG was.
When compared to Imagify, ShortPixel feels almost like a direct upgrade. It reduced the file sizes of both our test images by a greater percentage, while maintaining a similar or higher level of quality. The only downside is that you’ll see less information about what it’s doing.
After activating the WP Smush plugin, you’ll immediately get a few options to customize how the image compression feature works. Then, you’ll be taken right to the plugin’s new tab:
Let’s take a look at a few examples of images optimized using WP Smush. First up, the original JPEG photo once more:
The compression process was very quick in this instance, although the file size was only reduced by 1.6%. As a result, the quality hasn’t changed.
The same applies to our PNG test image.
The reduction here was only 2.4%, and again there’s no real change in quality (which is to be expected).
All in all, WP Smush fares relatively poorly when compared to the previous two options. It had no real effect on our test images, and doesn’t offer a way to customize the level of compression. For that, you’ll need the premium version instead.
We went into this review not sure what to expect, as all three of the image optimization plugins we looked at are popular and well-reviewed options. However, in our comparison of Imagify vs WP Smush vs ShortPixel, ShortPixel came out the clear winner.
We reached out to Alex Florescu at ShortPixel, and he had this to say about the importance of choosing the right image optimization plugin:
Before we wrap up, let’s run down the highlights of each plugin one more time. Remember that these are the free versions – your mileage may vary when it comes to the premium plugins:
- Imagify: Offers a lot of customization options, and did a solid job of compressing both of our test images.
- ShortPixel: Provides a very similar feature set to Imagify, but optimized our test images more efficiently and at a similar or slightly better quality.
- WP Smush: Doesn’t enable you to customize your images’ compression level, and had little to no effect on our test images.
Have you used any of these WordPress image optimization plugins before, and what did you think of them? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
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