Introduction

In my previous post on WebP, I discussed the core principles behind the compression methods used for the new(ish) file type.

I also showcased a case study use of a JPG image in comparison to WebP to demonstrate the data savings available. To summarise my findings, we need to be using this new file type. The original file size is just over 4MB, to the new being less than 400KB.

Image to boldly represent that JPG file tpye began at 4.21MB and is now a compressed WebP of 339KB

Now if you’ve read that post, you’ll understand why it is counter-intuitive not to include the image file type in your projects.

Not only will you be saving server space, bandwidth usage, lowering page speed but you’ll also be incentivizing the need for support to browser developers.

As I mention in my post introducing WebP, the cross-browser support is what is holding it back. Originally being developed by Google, it has had a long history of support given by Google Chrome.

Although Google Chrome dominates the market, there still isn’t enough support to warrant disposing of JPG, PNG or GIF images in favour of WebP.

Getting WebP to work safely across browsers

The current cross browser support available as of writing this blog is 73.7%. Now while that may seem impressive, you are still losing out on ¼ browsers having support.

So, what can we do to insert a WebP image into our website safely?

The <picture> element

The picture element has shown to me as a developer an important methodology called adaptive design (not to be mistaken for responsive design).

Adaptive design is the concept of changing the contents of a website based on several factors such as browser size or support.

Support is the primary factor we are going to look at. With the following code, I can insert a standard HTML image, with a new source image being applied to the original image element.

<picture>
    <source srcset="directory/image.webp" type="image/webp" />
    <img src="jpg-image.jpg" />
</picture>

Seems simple, right? Well, that’s all you need to get started with WebP!

The way this code works is by creating the image HTML element with the 100% supported file format of PNG and then using the picture source element we can swap out the PNG for the WebP when the WebP loads.

If the image is not supported or cannot be loaded/accessed, then it will default back to PNG.

But wait! Hold up, how much support is there for this <picture> element? It all seems too good to be true I hear you say?

Well if I’m completely transparent, the <picture> element only has 86.45% cross-browser support at the time of writing this post.

Fallbacks on Fallbacks

So, you’ve included the <picture> element in your code, and you’ve just been told by yours truly that for every 20 visitors, three will be neglected.

However! Because we aren’t doing any fancy frazzling and dazzling, we are still left with the universally supported <img> element that we specified in the <picture> element.

So, just to recap. We have the WebP fallback to PNG, JPG or GIF if not supported by the <picture> element and then <picture> element falls back to <img> element.

WordPress Editor

WordPress is my favourite CMS for various reasons. Out of the box WordPress however, does not support the uploading of WebP files.

Thankfully with a code snippet, I stole from an existing project which enables SVG, I was able to enable WebP. The following code snippet can be found below –


function cc_mime_types($mimes) {
    $mimes['webp'] = 'image/webp';
    return $mimes;
}

add_filter('upload_mimes', 'cc_mime_types');

So WebP is a verified upload time for the WordPress media library uploader and browser. You can’t view the thumbnail preview, so I suggest keeping the names of your files consistent with only the file type changing. Remember, we need to upload the JPG still.

Now, moving on, the WordPress editor, although minimal and user-friendly doesn’t support the inclusion of the WebP image with a fallback.

The exclusion of inserting the new image type is where my new plugin comes in handy!

WJHM-MCE

I’ve always thought to myself, hey why can’t I just build a component that can be included with a couple of clicks and not be coded every time.

I mean, isn’t that the whole point of reusable and consistent code? Keeping everything in order, no room for human error.

This is where my new plugin WJHM-MCE comes into the article.

JackDaviesWork/WJHM-MCE

WJHM-MCE – A plugin that allows for custom MCE buttons for the use with any WordPress theme.

I won’t go into too much detail as the plugin is still an ongoing project. All you need to know for this post is that the plugin allows for WebP images to be uploaded and inserted with a fallback.

Screenshot of new TinyMCE editor for WordPress with a new button for including WebP images

So, I have my plugin activated, and I now have a new custom MCE editor button. When I press the button, I am met with a media library picker window to select the WebP image file I want to insert, followed by another window to pick a fall-back image.

Wordpress media library window requesting a fallback image

Wordpress media library window requesting a webp image

Now if we examine the code generated.

Code generated by WJHM-MCE plugin, using structure listed at the start of article. Picture element with a child source element and image element

Hey! Presto, it works!

Conclusion

I am still in shock and awe at the presence of this new image file type. The benefits the image provides, and with the amount of fallback support there is available for cross browser compatibility, there is no excuse not to be using this image type.

One issue I am currently still met with on WordPress I the capability to crop and edit WebP images uploaded.

When I insert the image into a new post or article, I may want to display a medium sized thumbnail of the picture. As expected WordPress doesn’t allow for cropping or editing for a file type that it doesn’t support out of the box.

Oh, and one last thing if you hadn’t already guessed. All of the images included in the body of this article are WebP images with PNG or JPG fallbacks!