Various web development companies have promoted a number of new media formats in the last year or two. That’s made it difficult to decide which ones individual designers should be using. Chances are that you’re never going to have to worry about something like PNG or WAV losing support in most of the popular desktop browsers, but things get a little more confusing when you try to incorporate something like hi-res MQA audio into a site design. This kind of format is far less popular, so you risk alienating at least some portion of your user base.
Some web designers will recommend that individual site operators never use media formats beyond the most basic ones. While this will certainly ensure compatibility with the greatest number of devices, you could miss out on important new features by doing so. Several of the newer web formats offer much better compression ratios than older ones did, which is an important consideration for those anybody who is dealing with strict bandwidth guidelines when building a site.
Considering the fact that they stand the greatest chance of helping people reduce the amount of bandwidth used, it may help to examine video formats first.
Deciding When to Build a Site Around a New Video Format
For many users, this point is completely moot because they upload all of their videos to something like YouTube or one of its many alternatives and then embed them on a site. If you haven’t done so, then you’ll want to at least consider this as an option because you don’t have to provision the storage space of these services from your own server. On the other hand, this might be impossible if the content you have to post doesn’t fit within their guidelines, thus making the decision of a video format useful.
Support for high-ratio VP8 and VP9 codecs have made it possible to use the WebM video format, which has been heavily promoted by Alphabet as a way of streaming HTML5 content without relying on proprietary media. Due to the fact that Microsoft and Apple were at least connected to the MPEG-LA patent pool at one point, there was some pressure to stick with MP4 video files for some time. Considering that Firefox and the Chromium-based browsers all by and large support the WebM standard, you should feel comfortable with posting videos in this format by this point.
Though any media you stream using WebM might appear slightly more blocky than MP4, it should more than make up for it in terms of file size. You could notice compression ratios that are as great as 25-30 percent better than you had before. Animation, however, is a different beast and shouldn’t be held to the same standard.
Since the demise of Flash technology, animations are usually just exported from the tool used to create them into a format that’s compatible with HTML5 streaming services. Simply pick the best website builder possible and stick with it, converting your animations to a simple GIF file if you can. This will get you support for the largest group of devices. Once you’re done with this aspect of the web design process, you’ll be in a good position to consider the formats your still images are stored in.
Trying Out New Still Picture Formats
Just like the WebM format, it’s still picture sibling is starting to really steal the show. More than 95 percent of browsers currently in use support it, which has made it an increasingly popular option for those looking to dramatically reduce the amount of bandwidth their site draws on a regular basis. Some have noted that WebP files take up 45-50 percent less space than a comparable PNG image, though there is some drop in quality. The format itself basically uses a single frame of a VP8 video to store a picture, which means it can take advantage of the same strong compression ratios that are seen in that file container.
Compression algorithm aficionados will be happy to know that both the discrete cosine transform and Walsh–Hadamard systems are supported, which provide ratios far better than the lossless Deflate algorithm used by PNG pictures and .tgz archives. Sites created with both Leadpages and WordPress should work perfectly fine with these images, which has helped to spur their adoption among power users of these platforms. Since WordPress constitutes a plurality of the clearnet’s blogs along with a large number of eCommerce sites, that’s good news for developers.
Since the format is currently being promoted by Alphabet, it should work the G-suite of web apps as well as most modern browsers. That’s making it quite a bit more popular than some of the competition, such as AVIF. That format only enjoys support from slightly more than 67 percent of browsers in use and is struggling for acceptance among some web developers in spite of the fact that it offers some very unique features that should have helped to popularize it.
Tech savvy graphic artists will want to keep an eye on these formats, however, because it’s very possible that they might become huge in the future.
Watching Multimedia Format Adoption Stats
Supporters of the Alliance for Open Media have promoted AVIF as an up-and-coming open-source image alternative, which means that it should start to make a fairly large headway into the mobile sphere. Until it does, however, developers won’t want to side with it. They’ll probably also want to avoid most of the new audio formats. OGG and MP3 should certainly provide more than enough coverage for almost any kind of audio file someone would want to upload, at least for the time being.
On top of this, MP3 has recently become more liberal in terms of licensing so it should grow at a faster rate in spite of the fact that the old terms of its license made it kind of hard to use on certain types of devices. Most web developers won’t have to concern themselves with these kinds of legal maneuvers, but it’s a good idea to keep an eye out in case you ever get feedback from any users saying that they see a bunch of unfilled boxes on your site where media should be.
Eventually, you might even consider using a third-party audio host to avoid problems associated with streaming media.
Copying the YouTube Model for Sound
While you might have already uploaded most of your videos to a third-party site, you may not be as ready to do so with streaming audio. Naturally, this isn’t usually an option for podcasters who want their shows to end up in the iTunes library since there are certain rules that must be followed when doing so.
There’s no reason why you can’t post audio presentations or conferences to something like SoundCloud, however, which can help to further reduce bandwidth while making it easy for even mobile users to listen to the content you’re offering. You’ll still want to pay close attention to any feedback you’re getting, but this is a good option for those who are dealing with tight bandwidth restrictions. It’s also good for those who are concerned about some proprietary media codec suddenly losing support and making it hard for users to check out their site.
It’s likely that engineers are going to keep coming out with countless new formats, but you shouldn’t ever have to feel like you’re being forced to switch. If what you have at the moment is working for you, then holding steady is probably the best bet.