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I've used Fireworks now for years when it comes to image editing for the web. I also use Photoshop and Illustrator when applicable. I'll even fire up Image Ready if I'm feeling frisky. Fireworks and the others offer me a wide range of image optimization options. I still take each and every image and optimize it to the nth degree. It takes all of a few seconds to do so and I'm probably shaving off a few seconds of load time for my visitors.
What's your routine these days? Are you squeezing those file sizes down as far as you can? Or, have you joined the movement that feels "all" of the world is on broadband? Are you compressing using 72 or 96 dpi?
One tries. Photoshop has probably been as good or better than anything else for at least a decade. Saving as progressive jpg starts the display of the entire image faster rather than scrolling it down. It's useful to enlarge the image as one reduces the quality setting to see how it's being mangled. Low resolution screens will be able to see that. With .gifs, all you can do is reduce the color pallette size.
Perhaps what one can do is serve out a .jpg at one size, clean, not pixellated, as it were, no obvious stair-stepping, but still with crisp transitions to edges, and scale it up in the page with script or just height and width attributes. If it's a lined gif, a chart, etc, then it's probably 100% scale or nothing, or illegible otherwise in other words.
The idea of having some graphics on another server is supposed to be faster, they say. I haven't tried it.
Another thing is to load the graphics, later. Put up the page, and load the images with script at the very end. So the page is up, and the graphics are filling in. Some you'll want to 'progressively' display. But others you want to show just when completely loaded. So in script one can create a new Image, or assign to an existing image object, the url or relative url of the image using the "src" property. But just before that, one sets the "onload" handler to some function that displays the image, or uses it as part of another object, etc.
I don't know that servers get hung up at any particular file size. You'll get 'chunks' set, anyway, for various files over the same open connection with the 'keep alive'. But maybe. I don't know. Maybe it's best to keep the files under 30K or whatever, for particularly good speed. Someone else may know.
That said, my widest pix are 400 pixels and usually come in under 40K. When I started doing the sites, broadband wasn't available, but even now my clients like having quick loading pages.
E-commerce sites are a different animal altogether. Visitors might notice the visuals at a site on the first visit, but as they return, they're on a mission to accomplish an objective, which is usually to spend money. Far be it from me to erect obstacles to succeeding in THAT task! Site speed is golden in the world of commerce. Anorexic imaging is imperative! Less is more...