Optimizing Mama’s Sauce’s Beautiful Images

Drew Powers
2 min readJun 3, 2016

I don’t consider myself a Rails developer (yet), but with help from some brilliant coworkers at Envy, I managed to pull off developing/designing Mama’s Sauce’s 3rd version of their website and their first foray into Rails.

I’ve written about image optimization before, and it’s something I still put into practice as a front-end dev: making sites as compact as they can be. Across the US, there are so many areas that don’t have broadband/fiber that exists in the offices of web developers. It’s something developers too easily forget, and the results are bloated, fancy websites that swaths of the world can’t use. You can take care of the bulk of site bloat with simple image optimization; if you get that right, most of your job is done.

For Mama’s Sauce, images are their business. Specifically, if photos of their print work look bad, they look bad. I was tasked with keeping their photos crisp, while keeping loading times low. The secret is carrierwave-imageoptimizer + mini_magick + a JPG optimization trick: high resolution, low quality.

The uploader, using CarrierWave, looks a little something like this:

class ImageUploader < CarrierWave::Uploader::Base
include CarrierWave::MiniMagick
include CarrierWave::ImageOptimizer
def is_raster?(new_file)
ext = new_file.extension.to_s
ext.include?(‘jpg’) || ext.include?(‘png’)
# Create different versions of your uploaded files:
version :small, if: :is_raster? do
process resize_to_fit: [960, 960]
process optimize: [{ quality: 75 }]
version :medium, if: :is_raster? do
process resize_to_fit: [2048, 2048]
process optimize: [{ quality: 50 }]
version :large, if: :is_raster? do
process resize_to_fit: [4096, 4096]
process optimize: [{ quality: 50 }]

You can see I’m setting the JPG quality to 50%, but I’m not downsizing the resolution at all (the large version is what gets progressively loaded using srcset). The on-screen downsizing mysteriously kills all the artifacting. The smaller version gets 75% because at smaller resolutions, you can really notice 50% compression.

The result? Images that look every bit as good as the original (provided you’re displaying on-screen at 50% or smaller), but < 20% the original weight. The compression’s there, but you’d never know it. And you can view Mama’s Sauce’s beautiful print work at breakneck speed, even on mobile.