It’s Time To Retire the 3 Column Template
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Page Views
When it’s time to build or update your website presence, it seems like there is an endless list of tasks that need to get accomplished before you can launch your site. With your website developer you will have developed a strategy, decided on architecture, approved a design, created functionality, and written content. In the final push to go live, it can be really easy to rush through the remaining details, just to get the project finished. One of these details is often choosing images to accompany content. Hiring a photographer can be a costly endeavor, so many businesses (ours included!) turn to stock photo libraries to source imagery for websites. There is, however, a potentially big problem with this approach. Stock photo libraries are massive! You can easily lose several hours trying to find the right image to define, for example, “teamwork” that hasn’t been done a million times before. More often than not, people will just pick an image just to be able to move on to something else.
This approach can backfire though.
If we build it, they will come…
Ultimately, the end goal of any website is to get users to visit your site, and hopefully use your services, information, or products. Marketers will always say that SEO/content is king. This is indeed incredibly important. Unfortunately it sometimes doesn’t matter if your content is better than that of your competitors, when the images on your site are terrible. Your site might have great Google page rankings, but what about bounce rate? Before anyone reads one word on a website, their eyes scan over the whole page. This is where choosing the right imagery can help keep users on your site.
In choosing the right image, you have to think about a couple things. Where is this image being used? What is the message being sent to users? What resources are available for me to source images?
Here is how I handle these questions.
Where is the image being used?
Images are used across the whole site, and in many different ways. If the image is being used on the homepage, it’s usually for the hero area. The hero area is where the main messaging takes place, and is generally a large full width image. Because of the large size, these hero images can be the easiest or the most challenging to find the perfect image. A few lines of marketing copy will often be placed over a hero image to promote a service or to provide a glimpse at what your business can do for your customers. It is important to choose an image that strikes a balance between conveying your message visually and not being so busy that the text becomes illegible. The objective is for the user to identify what the messaging of the hero area is through the image, and for that to be reinforced by the accompanying text.
If a user has to strain to read your messaging, chances are they will ignore it.
Images that will appear on internal pages are also important. They provide a quick glance at what the content on that page may contain, and can also be a teaser to get users to dig deeper into your site. One of our clients Solutions Credit Union, does a great job of this. They use thumbnails as teaser images for news articles, and they have a variety of images representing the different financial services they offer their customers.
What is the message being sent to users?
Five to ten years ago, you couldn’t go to a website for a business without seeing images like a random building exterior, chess pieces, a handshake, or some person using a laptop while sitting on the top of a mountain. Besides being overused, these images don’t mean anything.
You don’t have to rely on stock photo cliches!
There are many ways to send a message to your users. If you’re selling a tangible service like insurance for example, you can choose an image of someone being handed a set of car keys, or people moving into a home. The models in these images are happy and portray exciting life changes that should be protected.
Being literal isn’t the only option though, especially when your business is a law firm or provides consulting services. It’s become increasingly common to use objects, or even animals to represent abstract ideas. In these circumstances the goal is to portray an idea that the business is collaborative, strong, trustworthy, etc. In this case I’ve seen instances where gears, a rowing team, and even elephants were used to convey these idea.
Landscape photos are also an option. An image of serene waters can send a message of calm in this chaotic world and suggests that the business is easy to work with.
Where can I source imagery?
Stock photo sites aren’t your only option. Many companies will use icons to accompany their content. One of our current clients is a startup non-profit organization that doesn’t yet have the budget for expensive photo shoots, or to purchase several stock photos. We’re working with them to create striking typographic layouts with icons to represent each section of content.
You can also look internally too! Chances are someone has a long forgotten folder or a library tucked away somewhere full of images that can be used. I’ve had more than a few instances where our client contact has asserted multiple times that these images don’t exist, and it turned out someone was sitting on a library of hundreds of beautiful images.
There are endless options of images that you can choose for your website. Deciding on a message and avoiding cliches can take your already professional looking site up a notch. Taking the extra time to thoughtfully choose images for your site will pay off in the long run. Lower bounce rates, longer page on times, and increased contacts from new visitors are just some of the benefits of having good images and well written content.
As John Wooden once said, “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”
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