These four 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.
We reached out to Alex Florescu of ShortPixel, and he had this to say about the importance of choosing the right image optimization plugin:
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 vs Optimole in this review.
Imagify vs WP Smush vs ShortPixel: In a nutshell
Throughout the rest of this article, we’re going to look at four popular image optimization plugins: Imagify vs WP Smush vs ShortPixel vs Optimole. 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 vs Optimole fare in a direct comparison.
Imagify vs WP Smush vs ShortPixel vs Optimole: A full comparison
Before we can look at how Imagify vs WP Smush vs ShortPixel vs Optimole compare to one another, we need to introduce them. Let’s take a quick look at these plugins, one by one.
Round 1: Comparing key features and pricing
In a very basic sense, these four WordPress plugins do nearly 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 vs Optimole and pick a winner. However, each does offer a somewhat different feature set. In addition, while all four plugins are free in their base versions, their premium tiers come in at a variety of price points.
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 vs Optimole. 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 vs Optimole. 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!
Installing Imagify isn’t quite enough to get the plugin working – you’ll need to take one additional step. Under Settings > Imagify, you’ll need to generate and enter a free API key.
Simply enter your email to create a free account.
You’ll then be taken to your Imagify dashboard, where you can customize the plugin’s settings (for example, by choosing a compression level):
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.
Installing Optimole is not any more difficult than the other plugins on this list. Just activate the plugin, get the API key and enable it in the Media → Optimole section of your WordPress dashboard.
Then, you’ll also be able to set some fine details about how you’d like Optimole to handle your images.
You can decide on the compression level, enable lazy loading, and also pick the maximum acceptable image size (just to make sure you don’t upload a super-huge image by accident).
When setting the compression level, Optimole will show you a quick demo of what an example image is going to look like before and after compressing it. Based on that, you can pick the settings that look best to you.
For the purpose of this test, I’m setting the compression level to Medium, which allows for good savings while leaving the visual quality of the image intact.
Let’s now check how Optimole’s performing on our example images. Here are the results for the JPEG:
The image was compressed by 53.6%. This is a very good result, especially considering that both images – before and after – look the same.
Now for the PNG test:
This time, the image was compressed by 17.8%. This isn’t a huge number, but we’re also not seeing any apparent loss of quality.
Overall, Optimole delivers good results and also lets you control the level of compression that you’re okay with.
One more thing that sets Optimole apart compared to the other players is that it works in the cloud and doesn’t overwrite any images on your main web server.
In fact, before displaying any images, Optimole looks at the device, screen size, and browser of the visitor and picks the most optimized image for them. On top of that, it also loads the images from an image CDN, which lets you save bandwidth and deliver the page a lot faster overall.
As far as we’ve tested, none of the other three solutions on this list do that.
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!
Don’t forget to join our crash course on speeding up your WordPress site. With some simple fixes, you can reduce your loading time by even 50-80%: