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Cloudinary: Responsive Images Solved

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As a designer or developer of responsive websites, your ultimate goal, no doubt, is to maximize an image for each unique device, while not making the files so big they slow down the load time or use excessive amounts of bandwidth. You must find that delicate balance between serving an image that is as large as the device can handle and providing the best possible quality without impacting site performance. This balance is particularly important with increased usage of mobile devices, which commonly have high pixel density, but can suffer from unreliable connectivity, monthly bandwidth limitations and orientations changes quickly.

For responsive designs to work as intended, you require multiple versions of every image so it can be adapted to look perfect on any device in any resolution, pixel density or orientation. Generating, managing, marking-up and delivering these numerous versions can be a daunting task – requiring time-consuming manual intervention. 

You also have to be careful not to make mistakes – such as upscaling or downscaling an image when a window is resized. And, often, you may not take into account the impact of using different image formats. For example, serving a WebP image to Chrome or Opera browsers can reduce the image size by 25 percent compared to the equivalent PNG or JPG.

Solving the image adaptation problems

Cloudinary has long been a pioneer in simplifying image management, enabling developers to just mention the cropping parameters, encoding settings and various resolutions for responsive images so they could be dynamically adapted. Today, the process became even simpler. Cloudinary announced its “Images Solved” solution, which completely automates image management using content- and context-aware image adaptation.

You can upload one high-resolution copy of any image to Cloudinary, which then automatically adapts the image, in real-time, to focus on the most important region of the image, select the optimal quality and encoding settings, and responsively deliver the image to any device in any resolution or pixel density.

Cloudinary eliminates manual intervention, guesswork and tradeoffs by further simplifying image transformation by automating the following features:

Content-aware cropping

Scaling an image isn’t always enough. With experience in responsive design, you likely know that variations in viewport sizes and device orientations mean that images need to be cropped differently. Cloudinary leverages a single dynamic URL to deliver the right image, in the right proportions, on every device. Cloudinary’s content‑aware image cropping algorithm automatically detects the most important parts of each image and crops it on-the-fly, while making sure that important information is never cut off.

Content-aware quality adjustment and encoder fine-tuning

Oftentimes, designers and developers will err on the side of caution when optimizing an image. Despite little discernible difference in quality, you might opt for a JPG at 90 percent over a JPG at 80 percent. This decision packs in extra Kb that offers nothing but wasted bandwidth to the user. At the same time, you may save images as the best all‑round encoding option (commonly JPG), even when alternatives like WebP offer a much faster experience for some browsers. Cloudinary optimizes performance by detecting the capabilities of the viewing browser and delivering not only the optimum level of compression, but also the best-performing format for any browser or device. This, too, is accomplished using the single dynamic URL.

Responsive images

With so many devices on the market, it’s almost impossible to export the right image size, ratio and pixel‑density for every device. Every image could potentially have thousands of variations. Cloudinary simplifies dynamic image delivery for responsive websites by automating the image width and DPR value decision based on the viewing device, display size and layout. Using Google Client Hints, it determines the required width of an image based on the browser viewport or the layout width and then calculates the optimal resolution for displaying the image on that device. Or Cloudinary dynamically selects image-specific breakpoints by determining the required number of versions of every image in order to balance the optimal dimensions vs. bandwidth reduction trade-off.

Dynamic format selection

Developers are expected to select optimal image formats for different scenarios based on the image content and viewing device/browser.

For example, JPEG should be used for a captured photograph or for faster loading while PNG should be used for illustrations or drawings or when using a transparent background. Additional logic should also be considered for modern formats such as WebP and JPEG-XR, if the viewing browser is Chrome or Internet-Explorer/Edge.

Image formats can have significant impact on the page load time and bandwidth – for example using WebP over JPEG can result in 30% file size reduction, which can lead to faster page loads and improved conversion rates.

The browser/format compatibility requirements seem simple, but manually adopting the format logic for many images can be complex and inefficient.

The Cloudinary Images Solved enhancements can make your job infinitely easier. Now instead of managing multiple versions of the same image, you can upload one high-resolution copy of the image and then automatically adapt it, in real-time, to focus on the most important region of the image, select optimal quality and encoding settings and responsively deliver the image on any device in any resolution or pixel density. Read this blog to view some examples.


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