WordCamp London - Bruce Lawson - Responsive Images

I’m at WordCamp London - live-blogging some of the talks

Bruce Lawson

EDIT: Bruce has added some corrections and clarifications in the comments below

  • Responsiveness includes speed of loading
  • 0.5 second delay is a 20% drop in traffic
  • Images are a major cause of slowing down pages
  • Av web page is 1.9MB - of which 1.2MB are images
  • Number of images loaded is static over time, but the size of images increases significantly over time
  • How can I send huge images to retina devices, but smaller images for rendering on smaller screens? Answer: HARD.
  • First try: use css to swap in images based on page width:
    • Fail: loads the retina image THEN the smaller image - i.e. downloads both - the opposite of what we want
    • This is because CSS and JS get applied to the DOM, so the DOM needs to get loaded first (?)
    • Browsers can create the DOM tree in whatever way they like
    • Because of preloading (“the single greatest performance improvement that browsers have ever made”) The whole of the source is read before the DOM tree is loaded - as soon as an image is spotted in the DOM, a request is sent off to fetch that image (i.e. before the DOM tree gets constructed)
    • therefore doing things in the CSS is too late
  • Therefore it needs to be the markup - Media Queries have been around a long time
  • Respimg - responsive images community group
  • First time a group of web developers wrote part of the standard and got it into the spec
  • Now in Opera and Chrome and soon to be in Webkit
  • First use case - optimise for high dpi screeens:
    • srcset attribute: specify images for particular pixel densities: a candidate list which the browser can use to select an optimal image
    • The browser gets to choose - this is so that e.g. the user can choose what sort of image quality they wnat to have

@Brucel talking responsive images

  • Second use case - stretchy images
    • Can be done straightforwardly with css, but involves sending massive images down the wire and putting a lot of CPU load on the browser
    • Slows things down for the user!
    • solution: w descriptor - use in src set to tell the browser which image is more suitable for a particular page width
  • All this requires a lot of cruft to add in all the clauses to make this work, but there’s a plugin from Respimg which does it for you
  • Third use case - new image formats
    • JPG/PNG/GIF are ubiquitous, but there are more modern, better compression alternatives: smaller files, better quality - e.g. WebP
    • Traditionally the logic is you can’t use this in the wild because only Chrome and Opera support it
    • with the <picture> element you can supply different image formats with fallbacks - so e.g. you can use WebP and fall back to img (actually browsers will force you to do progressive enhancement (supply an image)
  • Last use case - art direction
    • Choose a different aspect of the image to display on different devices: zoom in on a different bit of the image for different viewport sizes
    • Use media queries within the <picture> element to display different versions of an image at different widths
  • Release dates:
    • in OPera and Chrome now
    • FF in may
    • IE “under consideration” …
    • Safari already implement srcset - havent talked about <picture>
    • It’s designed to force progressive enhancement - nobody gets a worse experience than they do now