Avoid Large Layout Shifts Resulting from Loading Images


Check if loading images are causing large cumulative layout shifts on your page & fix it.

Last Updated : July 15, 2020

What it means?

When your page is loading, a lot of content may shift around as parts of the page become visible. This is called layout shift & is considered harmful for your visitors’ experience.

Visualizing content layout shift
Visualizing layout shift

The best way to see it in action for your webpage is to see how your page loads visually on a slow network. To do so, just test your URL on www.webpagetest.org with a connection of ‘3G’ or ‘3G Slow’ and with ‘Capture Video’ option enabled. Then look for test results loading snapshot images or video.

Identify what is causing the layout shift

You can identify what is causing your content to shift from your URL’s PageSpeed report:

  • Find what page elements appear in the section “Avoid large layout shifts” on your URL’s PageSpeed report. Typically, something above the elements listed here shall be causing layout shifts.
  • Or, look at the page loading snapshots on your URL’s PageSpeed report to identify if something on screen becomes visible as the page loads and pushes other content.

If the element causing layout shift is an image (which is commonly the cause), read further to address it.

Fix layout shifts from images

When image dimensions are fixed & known

If the image dimensions are fixed & known, provide them via the height and width attribute to avoid layout shifts:

<img src="url" width="nn" height="mm" />

When image dimensions are unknown but it’s aspect ratio is fixed

If the ratio of width to the height for the image is known, we can still avoid layout shifts. Let’s presume our image’s aspect ratio is 2:1 (width is twice the height). This means it’s height is 50% that of it’s width. Now, we can create a container div with 50% padding to avoid layout shift as in below code-snippet:

<div style="width:100%;height:0; padding-top:50%;position:relative;">
  <img  src="<imgUrl>" style="position:absolute; top:0; left:0; width:100%;">
</div> 

Change the number for padding-top:50%; in the above snippet based on your image’s aspect ratio.

When image dimensions and aspect ratio are not known

If image dimensions and aspect ratio cannot be added to the page’s HTML, we have to take the nearest guess at the aspect ratio & then leverage CSS property object-fit: contain for the best feasible solution with no layout shift. Details below:

  • First-up, identify the closest aspect ratio guess for your images. We shall use this number to style the container div.
  • Then, use the object-fit:contain property with the img inside the container div to make sure the image remains within the container div and does not appear stretched (by maintaining it’s original aspect ratio)

<div style="width:100%;height:0; padding-top:50%;position:relative;">
    <img src="url" style="position:absolute; top:0; left:0; object-fit: contain;object-position:50% 0;width:100%;height:100%;" />
</div>

Below are some examples of images of different dimensions & aspect ratio within container with the same CSS. The container’s background-color has been set to visualilze how the code handles different images.


<div style="width:100%;height:0; padding-top:50%;position:relative;background-color: #2a92ed;">
  <img src="images/cls_800_x_400.png" style="position:absolute; top:0; left:0; object-fit: contain;object-position:50% 0;width:100%;height:100%;" />
</div>


<div style="width:100%;height:0; padding-top:50%;position:relative;background-color: #2a92ed;">
  <img src="images/cls_800_x_600.png" style="position:absolute; top:0; left:0; object-fit: contain;object-position:50% 0;width:100%;height:100%;" />
</div>


<div style="width:100%;height:0; padding-top:50%;position:relative;background-color: #2a92ed;">
  <img src="images/cls_800_x_800.png" style="position:absolute; top:0; left:0; object-fit: contain;object-position:50% 0;width:100%;height:100%;" />
</div>


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