What is an SVG file? While you’re working on the design of a WordPress website that’s as user-friendly as possible, you’ll probably come across some issues with images; especially as it relates to image resolution. And it’s important to get image quality right because fewer things look more amateurish on a web page than a photo or logo that’s distorted and poorly scaled.
Responsive design requirements only further compound the problems we have with images and scalability. Site users are looking at your content on all kinds of different devices. And because of those, your images have to be fully optimized for every single device.
In this article, we will look at what it takes to have a file format that makes it easy to have flawless images no matter what their size with SVG files.
The good news is that somebody already did. And it’s the answer to the question, “what is an SVG file?” An SVG file is a perfect solution for all imagery that’s non-photographic on your WordPress website.
An SVG file will generate perfectly crisp graphics on any scale and are fully optimized for all search engines.
- Smaller in file size than other image file formats
- Capable of dynamic animations
And there’s even more to unpack about SVG files than you may expect.
What Is an SVG File?
SVG stands for Scalable Vector Graphic file. It’s a file type that’s used to render two-dimensional images on the web.
Unlike the other standard file formats for images, SVG stores images in a vector format made up of lines, points, shapes, and curves based upon mathematical formulas.
But what exactly is a vector graphic?
Vector vs Raster
Images you see on today’s Internet can be divided into two distinct categories: vector graphics and raster graphics. No doubt you’re already familiar with JPEG and PNG image files. These are both created as raster graphic formats.
The raster format refers to image files that store image info within a grid called a bitmap. The individual squares in a bitmap combine to show us a recognizable image, much like the pixels on your television or computer screen.
A raster graphic is best for incredibly detailed photograph images, wherein the exact color of every individual pixel has to be uniquely specified. These image types have a resolution that’s fixed, which means that when you increase the image size, the image quality is lowered.
PDFs and SVG are vector graphic formats and work quite differently. They store images as individual points and lines between those points. Mathematical formulas work to determine the shape and placement of the lines and points while maintaining the spatial relationship when images are scaled down or up in size.
Vector graphics are able to store color info and can display text.
How Does An SVG File Work?
An SVG file is always written in a code called XML. This is a common markup language that’s used for transferring and storing digital info. XML code within SVG files specifies several important things, including:
- The text within an image
When a web browser (or any other application) processes an SVG file, it takes in the XML info, processes it, then displays it as a vector image on a user’s screen.
What Are the Advantages of Using SVG Files?
SVG files are not only practical but also extremely powerful for use in WordPress web design. Here’s why:
SVG Files Have Infinite Scalability
An SVG file has the ability to be resized to any size you’d like without losing image quality. The size of an SVG file doesn’t matter, as they will look the same no matter how big or small they appear on your website.
And this scalability is important. After all, the size of images will be different for every viewing, based upon the device they use, the size of their browser window, and your overall site layout.
No matter what, your WordPress site images have to appear fully rendered to all of your users. And using SVG files for your images makes it much easier to accomplish this.
When you have the need to expand or shrink the size of an SVG file, the program that’s reading it will readjust the lines and points so that solid colors and clear boundaries remain exactly where they should be.
In contrast, raster image files will look pixelated when they’re blown up to larger sizes on a user’s screen. Ultimately, raster images simply aren’t designed for effectively scaling.
There is, however, a tradeoff with better scalability. By design, an SVG file lacks the higher quality and detail offered by raster images. You’re only able to convey a limited amount of visual info within a vector system, whereas a file built in the raster format will display its images in as much detail as the bitmap allows.
Keep in mind that an attempt to turn a detailed photograph saved in PNG format into a vector will result in a huge and unusable SVG file.
This means that both image file types have a unique place in WordPress web design. Use JPEGs and PNGs (or other raster formats) for your photographs, and SVG files for images that have less detail.
SVG files allow WordPress developers and designers to have much more control over how their websites appear. Rather than directly modifying files in the text editor, simply use one of the many editing programs that are SVG-compatible to change:
- Vector shapes
- Visual effects
- Shadows and gradients
Compatibility for Scripting
Developed by the World Wide Web Consortium as a standard format for Internet graphics, SVG files are designed to communicate well with other web conventions, such as:
Because of this design compatibility, images saved in the SVG file format can be controlled using scripts. And this opens up the door to a large range of possibilities for a dynamic display, including mobile-responsive images, dynamic charts, and animations.
This cannot be done with PNG or JPEG images.
Accessibility and SEO
An SVG file is a text time. This gives you some distinct advantages over PNG, JPEG, and other raster image formats.
First, programmers are able to look at the XML code and understand it immediately. But beyond that, when SVG files contain text, the text info gets stored as literal text (not shapes). Because of this, SVG files can be interpreted by screen readers, which helps people who can’t interact with digital content in a traditional way.
But even more, SVG files can be easily indexed by Google and other search engines. By placing an infographic with a lot of text (or other SVG display) on a web page, including keywords within the image will boost your page rankings and drive up your SEO.
JPEG and PNG image files are limited to alt text and metadata when it comes to SEO scalability.
More Manageable File Sizes
SVGs are able to store your images much more efficiently than raster formats, provided that the image you’re using isn’t flooded with too much detail.
They contain enough info to display the vectors on any scale, whereas bitmap image files need larger file sizes for images that are scaled up in size.
The small physical size of SVG files is great for WordPress website owners because small image files will load much faster on web browsers. And when you use more SVG files than JPEGs and PNGs, you’ll help increase the overall performance of your site.
Just remember that you shouldn’t convert all of your site’s images into SVG files. Highly detailed photographs should remain in a JPEG or PNG format.
What Should You Use SVG Files For?
These file types will work the best on images that have less detail than a standard photograph. Let’s look at the most common online uses for SVG image files.
Almost all icons will translate well into vector images because they have borders that are clearly defined, and are relatively simple.
Icons for elements such as buttons also need to be size-responsive for various screens, which means they need to be scalable.
SVG is suited extremely well for logos that appear in your site header, emails, and in print. Logos are normally pretty simple in design, which makes them perfect for the SVG format.
Non-photo visual art and vectors are a match made in heaven.
These types of drawings on your website will easily scale while conserving file space when you convert them to SVG.
Interface Elements and Animations
An animated SVG adds much-needed visual flair to your website or can be utilized to engage users with interface animations.
Data Visualizations and Infographics
Would your WordPress site benefit from elements such as illustrated charts or infographics? Maybe you need to create better WordPress feature images to make your site more impactful.
This is yet another application that’s perfect for SVGs. Designs will seamlessly scale, and the text within each SVG file is 100% indexable.
How To Create and Edit SVG Files
To open any SVG file without editing it, all you need to do is open it directly in a web browser, since every browser is designed to perfectly display SVGs. You can also preview SVG files in an editing program, which we’ll cover in a minute.
When you want to modify SVG files, you could do it in your text editor. However, this is impractical for making changes beyond color. Rather, you should use specialized software for doing this editing.
There are premium and free options, which include:
- Adobe Illustrator
- Microsoft Visio
- GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) – this is popular, free, and completely open-source
- Google Docs
To start out creating SVGs, you won’t need to be an expert in XML or coding. All you need to do is draw your vectors in any of these programs, then export them in the SVG file format.
Every program listed will have its own learning curve and limitations. If you’re planning on further exploring SVG files, give several of the above-mentioned options a try. Get a good feel for the available tools before you settle on any paid or free option for creating vectors.
This is one example of how you can use Adobe Illustrator to vectorize an image:
- Create a unique design in Adobe Illustrator that you plan on converting into an SVG file.
- Click on “Image Trace” over your design to select it. Within the drop down menu, go to Advanced Options. Select “Outline View” for clarity on the borders of the design and to see how many nodes are present.
- Click on “Expand” to change the design into a vector.
- Resize as needed.
- Remove unneeded nodes to fine tune the design.
- In your “Magic Wand” tool, click “Group Selection,” then separate your completed design from any of the others that are currently on your artboard.
- After selecting your design, click File > Export > Export as SVG (*.SVG).
- In SVG Options, click on “Show Code” to display the XML. Copy and paste where you please.
SVG Files Are Perfect For Designing To Scale
What is an SVG file? It’s an image file that comes in very handy in many different WordPress web design scenarios. Whether you need to enlarge your logo to plaster on a billboard or shrink it to the size of a thumbnail, the SVG file will make sure that you don’t lose the detail that makes your logo unique.
An SVG file is interactive, versatile, and very easy to begin creating with your chosen graphics editor and a little design skill.
With SVG files in your WordPress web design tool kit, you’ll never need to worry about those annoying blurry graphics of your standard site images.
Of course, for your highly-detailed photos, it’s best to stick with JPEGs and PNGs.
Kathryn Lang believes it is simple, and as an award-winning author and natural-born hopesmith, she shares tips on how to find your why, pursue your purpose, and live a bold, intentional life – always with a dash of twisted encouragement.