What are the different image file formats for use on your website and how do they differ?

When it comes to website content, images are key to successfully engaging your audience online.

Whether it’s a photo, infographic or an aesthetic image that is built within the structure of your site – there is no denying the value to using imagery on your website.

The problem is that sometimes, knowing which file format to use can be a struggle.

There are a range of image formats you can choose from when saving a photo or graphic but the ideal file type is dependant on what they will be used for.

There are four main image file types that are most widely used online: JPG, PNG, GIF and SVG.

This article will look at what each of the different file types are designed for and tell you when you should use them.

JPG / JPEG

JPG or Joint Photographic Experts Group was initially created all the way back in 1986 as an image format designed to use as little storage as possible to be quickly uploaded and downloaded.

Because JPEGs can support millions of individual colours, they are ideal for ‘real-life’ images such as photographs.

JPEGs work well on websites and across email and social marketing platforms. More than often, JPEGs will be the standard image format used across digital marketing channels.

JPG files are known as ‘lossy’. This means that any unnecessary data within a JPG image is removed to compress the image and ensure it is as small as possible. This can result in images losing quality if they are converted from a different file format to JPEG.

JPEGs can be thought of as the standard image format for the web. Unless you need transparency in your images, your image includes text or are animated, then JPEG is the format for you.

Example of image file format JPG

PNG

PNG or Portable Network Graphics was originally created back in 1995 and was designed to replace the GIF format.

Unlike JPEGs, PNGs are “lossless”. This means that they do not lose any data during compression. This makes them ideal for times when you need detailed graphics to retain as much quality online as possible.

PNG-8 is similar to GIF in that it supports 256 indexed colours, as well as transparency. PNG-24, like JPGs, can support up to 16 million colours. PNGs are most often used for static images, like a JPG would, however they can support animation.

PNG also supports transparency, which means that if you have edited an image using software like Photoshop and you have intentionally left the background transparent it will retain that feature online.

PNG tends to be the best choice for detailed graphics online.

Example of image file format PNG

GIF

We’ve all seen them. GIF’s or Graphics Interchange Format are images that are used for short simple animations.

Similarly, to PNG images, GIFs are also lossless, but they are smaller than JPGs, specifically because they only accommodate up to 256 indexed colours.

There is no audio data associated or embedded in GIF files but their animated features have made them hugely popular across social media platforms.

via GIPHY

SVG

SVG or Scalable Vector Graphics are the latest image file type to be used online.

First released in 2001, SVGs have become more popular across the digital landscape.

Unlike all the other file types in this article, SVG will retain crisp, full resolution when scaled to any size by utilising its vectorised format.

It does this by declaring mathematical coding to all the shapes within the image rather than using pixels. This means that the shapes can simply be scaled up or down (depending on requirements) and never lose quality.

SVG is a lossless file format like GIF and PNG, and they tend to be fairly large files when compared with other formats for the web.

Example of image file format SVG

Which image file format should I use?

To summarise:

If you want to upload images of your holiday snaps, use JPEG.

If you want to use an image that has been edited or contains graphical elements and you’d like to keep some area transparent, use PNG.

If you want to make a funny animation of a cat to get likes on Twitter, use GIF.

If you don’t want to lose quality on your site, use SVG.

At Youbiquity, we can help with creative digital marketing services, including assisting you with digital content creation, image editing and graphic design.

Visit our digital marketing services pages to understand more about how we can help you with your marketing projects.

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