Recently, I was browsing a post on Medium and I spotted a nice image loading effect. First, load a small blurry image, and then transition to the large image. I found it pretty neat and wanted to dissect how it was done.
I have performed a WebPageTest test against this page on Medium where you can see how it loads too. And if you want to see it by yourself, open Medium’s post in your browser, disable the cache and throttle the response so it takes longer to fetch the images and you can see the effect.
Here is what is going on:
Render a div where the image will be displayed. Medium uses a
padding-bottomset to a percentage, which corresponds to the aspect ratio of the image. Thus, they prevent reflows while the images are loaded since everything is rendered in its final position. This has also been referred to as intrinsic placeholders.
Load a tiny version of the image. At the moment, they seem to be requesting small JPEG thumbnails with a very low quality (e.g. 20%). The markup for this small image is returned in the initial HTML as an
<img/>, so the browser starts fetching them right away.
Once the image is loaded, it is drawn in a
<canvas/>. Then, the image data is taken and passed through a custom
blur()function You can see it, a bit scrambled, in the
main-base.bundleJS file. This function is similar, though not identical, to StackBlur‘s blur function. At the same time, the main image is requested.
Once the main image is loaded, it is shown and the
All the transitions are quite smooth, thanks to the CSS animations applied.