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Human beings are very visual creatures by nature. If you had to choose between a pile of plain text or some text and images, it goes without saying that you would choose the latter option anytime.

The same applies to the links on your website.

Here at MakeUseOf, we use an online service called ShrinkTheWeb. It’s a website screenshot thumbnail service that allows us to easily add a thumbnail to for any website. You can see it in action in our daily Cool Websites and Tools series.

So say you have written a website review or you have inserted a link to a site on your blog. Wouldn’t it look much better with a small thumbnail image of that site next to the link? Of course it would. It can be especially handy for list style articles, just like MakeUseOf’s Cool Websites and Tools.


Add ShrinkTheWeb Website Thumbnails To WordPress

To automate things and make our life easier, we use their WordPress plugin. The plugin is specifically helpful for those who plan to use the ShrinkTheWeb thumbnails on a regular basis.

As you can see from the above screenshot apart from generating thumbnails it can also add small mouse-over popup previews to external links on your website.

If you don’t want to bother with the plugin, you can easily and quickly generate multiple sizes of a website screenshot, simply by inserting the URL on the front page of ShrinkTheWeb.

To make an image of a website page, just look at the bottom of the STW website and you’ll see a box entitled “Generate a Screenshot“. Simply enter the URL and hit the green arrow button. As an example, we will use the MakeUseOf site.

Seconds later, you’ll have quite a few sizes (there are six default sizes).  There are no advertisements or watermarks on the thumbnails.

Then it’s just a case of right-clicking on the size you want and saving the image to your hard drive.

But if you have a WordPress blog, it gets even easier. Just install their plugin and everytime you want to insert a thumbnail of a website, just enter in the HTML tab of your post, 

[thumb]enter the domain name here[/thumb]

The thumbnail image will then be automatically generated when you save the post.

There are also plugins for Drupal, vBulletin and Django.

There are many reasons why you might want to use ShrinkTheWeb:

  • Having thumbnail images means your readers can see where weblinks lead to and they can decide instantly whether they want to go there or not. This is good for NSFW (not safe for work) links.
  • It makes your webpage much nicer to look at. Who wants to look at a bunch of boring plain text when you can have pictures instead?
  • Remember the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words”? Well, if you’re struggling to convey the point of a website, show your readers a picture instead. Problem solved.
  • Increase the chances of someone clicking on your links. I am more likely to click on a link if I see a picture next to it. Pictures pique my curiosity.

The service is free but they do offer an optional paid pro service as well. Check out this page to see what you get with the pro option. Personally I think most people will be perfectly happy with the free offerings.

Do you use ShrinkTheWeb? If so, what do you think about it? Or maybe you use a super-duper alternative service that you would like to tell us about? Lets us know in the comments.

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  1. Mandy
    April 6, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    Thanks, maybe I'll have a try on this. But what I really wonder is, is there a function or plugin that could help to show thumbnail in homepage, then show its original size or specific size in post page. Anyone can help?

    • puravida
      April 7, 2010 at 10:39 am

      Hi Mandy,

      This is "The Brandon" over at ShrinkTheWeb...

      If I understand you correctly, you want to be able to capture and show a full-size thumbnail of a website. Is that correct?

      If so, that is possible with our service (using the "Custom Size" PRO upgrade) and that let's you capture websites up to 1024x768. There's also a PRO feature called "Custom Browser Resolution" that lets you specify the browser resolution to capture with a browser at 800x600, 1024x768, 1280x1024, 1440x900, etc. And then finally, there's another PRO feature called "Full-length" that captures the entire length of the web page. So by combining features, you could capture at a specific browser size, at any given width, and any specific height (up to full-length).

      There are currently no "functions" in WordPress or PHP that allow you to do these things and, due to the nature of how screenshots must be processed, it will probably be a very long time before something like that is easily available. In the meantime, there's ShrinkTheWeb and 98% of our users do not pay anything. :)

      If I misunderstood your question, sorry for rambling off on a tangent! haha...


      -The Brandon