Why Are Images Important on a Website?

You’ve probably heard the old adage, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Regardless, the majority of people – at least initially – do it anyway. With the prolific growth of online shopping, social media, and online advertising, this standard has really become just words in the wind. Images are more important than ever. But what does this mean for your website? 

We’ll answer the following all-important questions:

  • Why are images important on a website?
  • How do you choose the right images for your website?
  • Why is image optimization important?

Why Images Are Important for Your Website

why is image optimization importantWhether you’re building anew, making a few updates, or implementing a digital marketing strategy – image selection, along with image optimization – is more important than ever. Sure, you have a lot of tasks in the development of a site: strategy, architecture, navigation, mobility, accessibility, design, functionality, written content – phew! 

By the time you’re ready to check off images, you might be tempted to rush the process. Don’t. Now is not the time to underestimate the value of carefully-selected images for your homepage, product pages, blog, or digital ad. Here are a few reasons why you should care about your website’s images:

 

  • Images are one of the most powerful forms of communication. How do we know? There is a ton of research centered around the ‘picture superiority effect‘. Numerous studies have demonstrated that humans remember images much better than words. In fact, in one study humans were able to remember 6,600 out of 10,000 images they were shown.
    Images also transcend language. Remember way back when shops and pubs were identified by the images on their signs? Not everyone could read words, but everyone could “read” a picture. Or go even further back to when hieroglyphics were the modus operandi for ancient civilizations.
  • Younger generations prefer images over text. Research that studied Generation Y’s response to web pages found that they favor communication dominated by pictures vs. communication dominated by text. “The results…suggest that Generation Y may prefer pages that include a main large image, images of celebrities, little text, and a search feature.”
  • Images on a website can improve user experience. Pictures and images convey messages much quicker and more succinctly than a block of words. They can illustrate a place, an experience, a message, or a feeling in less than a second. Infographics can also add visual interest to important information.
  • Images can elicit an emotional response. Selecting the right image for your brand, your product, your service, or your message is about more than just filling space. Using images to create a reaction is the goal – whether you want your user to add a product to their cart, make a donation, sign up for a newsletter, or inquire about a service, the images you include as part of your content are integral to your conversion goals. 

Choosing the Right Images For Your Website

Hiring a photographer can be costly and time-consuming, so many businesses (including ours) opt for stock photo libraries like Getty Images to source imagery for websites. There is, however, a potentially big problem with this tactic. 

Stock photo libraries are massive! You can easily lose several hours searching for the right image that not only captures your brand, message, and goal – but that hasn’t been used a million times before. More often than not, people will just pick an image just to be able to move on to something else. Don’t do this.

You might have the most creative, expertly-written, SEO-optimized content of any site out there, but it won’t matter if your images aren’t great. Internet users are scanners. If your webpage, at first glance, is not user-friendly, engaging, or eye-catching, they’ll bounce. (Hence, that all-important bounce rate statistic.) Choosing the right image will greatly enhance your user experience and conversion rates.

According to our Creative Manager extraordinaire, Sylvia Foerster, there are a couple of things you should consider when attempting to choose the right image:

  • Where is this image being used? 
  • What is the message being sent to users? 

For example, selecting a hero image is quite different from selecting an image for an interior product, service, or team page. A hero image is broad and bold and typically includes text. She notes that it’s important to select a balanced image that conveys your message while not being so busy that your text becomes lost or illegible. She says, “If a user has to strain to read your messaging, chances are they will ignore it.”

You should also avoid using cliche, overused stock images. Ironistic services a lot of credit union sites that provide home equity loans or car loans or vacation loans. Rather than just selecting standard, boring images – say of keys or handshakes – they often use images that elicit emotion and show how you might feel when using their services. For instance:

  • How much fun you will have in that brand new car
  • How nice it will be to host dinner parties in your newly, remodeled kitchen
  • What wonderful memories your family will make on that much-needed beach vacation

When choosing images, you must also weigh your personal preferences against your branding. Every image on your website should be consistent with and reinforce both your branding, your message, and your tone. 

Why Image Optimization Is Important

 how to choose the right images for your websiteProper image optimization will decrease page load times and improve SEO, helping your site improve in both rankings and user experience. The overall goal is to create high-quality images with small file sizes that are search-engine-friendly. Here are some basic best practices for optimizing your website’s images:

  • To decrease page load time, reduce the image size. (Longer page load times increase your bounce rate, which negatively impacts your search engine rankings.)
  • Create concise but descriptive, keyword-rich file names to ensure the search engine knows what’s relevant. 

Images are returned for a good chunk of search queries, and visual search is becoming more and more of a factor so making sure that search engines understand your images is very important. 

Think about user search intent. Will they search for Image1000444, or will they search for farmers markets in Alexandria, VA?

  • Optimize your image alt tag. Describe it in clear language just like your image file name. This is also super important for SEO, and it definitely will help e-commerce product rankings.
  • Select appropriate dimensions so that images can be viewed at their best.
  • Choose the right file type (i.e. gif, jpeg, or png):
    • GIF is generally lower quality than the others, but support animation and are okay for simple images with just a few colors. 
    • JPEG images are the usual standard because they can be easily compressed, allowing for high-quality images with small file sizes. 
    • PNG images are a popular option because they support more colors than GIFs and maintain quality with repeated saves much more than JPEGs.
  • If you use thumbnail images – optimize those too. These can also affect page load speeds and impact user experience. Make sure you don’t use the same alt tags that you applied to their matching partners.
  • Watch out for decorative images like backgrounds and borders. They can really slow down your web pages. If you must implement decorative images, reduce the file size, or you can also use CSS to create colored areas instead of using images. 

Selecting images can be creative and fun – but they are also an integral part of your digital strategy and incredibly important to the overall success of your website. If you have questions or want a professional to handle this critical task, contact Ironistic, and we’ll help you translate your vision and brand into a dynamic online presence.

 

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