There are ways of having some good website graphics which do not take for ages to download.
Here's a few tips on how to achieve this:

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Website tip - shrink your .gifs

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Sometimes it seems as you are 'surfin' the Net' that everyone wants to put up cool sites - you know, the latest in layout, great graphics and "This site has been enhanced for Netscape". And you get this huge graphic logo that takes for ages to download with a slow connection and your slow speed modem that you'll upgrade as soon as you can afford it.

This isn't just you, but a majority of the Web population - your potential customers, if you have a Web site that you are wanting to use to attract new business.

But there are ways of having some good graphics which do not take for ages to download. Here's a few tips on how to achieve this:

  1. Make the graphic smaller. Does it really have to be 400 x 200 pixels large? Why not reduce it to 200 x 100. Perhaps it will look just as good.
  2. How many colour are used in the graphic? We've seen some which only use 5 or 6 colours, which have been saved as 256-colour or 16 million colour files. Totally unnecessary. Try to optimise your graphic files as 16-colour files. Even if the original file is more than 16 colours, you may find that reducing it to 16-colour will not detract too much from the appearance.
  3. If you save the file as a 'version 89a' gif file - an 'interleaved graphic - it will load in stages for your visitor, so that at least something is visible before the full graphic loads. However, note that a 'version 89a' graphic (non-interleaved or interleaved) can be converted to have a 'transparent background' - which means that it will appear to be 'floating' on whatever background your visitor's browser is set for.
  4. Is the graphic really necessary? Sure, if it's your logo at the top of the page. But what about all those little buttons, fancy lines and so on which you think adds to the appearance of your site - and, after all, they are only a few hundred bytes big. That may be so, but remember that every file has a downloading 'overhead' attached to it. Whether it's 700 or 70,000 bytes big, it will still take several seconds for your visitor's browser to contact your site prior to downloading the graphic.

The first two tips can reduce a 40k graphic file to a 4k file, and this, combined with the 4th tip, can make all the difference between your visitor hitting the 'stop' button and going on to see what you really want to tell them. Incidentally, we've found that Paint Shop Pro is an excellent for amending graphic files.

If you want an on-line service that reduces the size of your GIF files while you wait, try out the GIF Wizard service.

We hope that you are finding that we practice what we preach!

Richard Dalton sent us this additional valuable point about speed-loading graphics:

Always use WIDTH and HEIGHT tags with images. Browsers will then allocate the space on the page for the images and load the text around them before they load.

This way, your visitors will start to see some information quickly, which will encourage them to wait for the rest of the download.

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