How to Use Images Successfully – Web Design Usability Guide
Web Design Usability Guide – Dealing with Images
Indeed, users want to see photos on websites, but they want them to be relevant. They would prefer a webpage that doesn’t have visual images rather than a webpage that has lots of photos that just make it heavy and cluttered. The key in using images on websites, according to the study, is based on a few basic ideas:
- Image fundamentals – size, composition, quality and exposure are four important things to look for in a good image. People actually look for quality in images, even the contrast makes a huge difference.
- Effectiveness – if the picture creates excitement or interest, then it works. It is down to three characteristics:
- Emotional appeal – does the product in the picture look good and make the user want it?
- Rational appeal – does the image show the benefits of the product?
- and Brand appeal – does the picture fit your brand?
- Transmitted message – this is about the image sending the right message to the website readers.
- Anticipated user response – this is a bit more difficult to put into practice, but the basic idea behind it is that the picture should help decision-making and create a desire for the product. We will talk about this a bit later.
Purely decorative images tend to be ignored unconsciously by our brain. Like a radar, if the images are there only as a filler, the brain will ignore them. The study concluded that pictures and images of real people or real products are automatically categorized as important and are to be studied in detail by the human brain. If you have a personal blog, people would rather see your face than a drawing or a caricature. They want to see the face of the person communicating with them, it is a matter of trust and bonding.
If you own a company, it is a very good idea to take some time talking about the people behind it – using images. It gives a personal touch to an otherwise faceless company and people dig that. People actually want to know (or at least see) who the people are behind a company. If you can afford it, invest in a good photographer and try to stay away from stock pictures (especially from stock pictures that aren’t relevant to your content). It might cost a few bucks, but it will add a lot of value to your company website.
Several eye-tracking study show that the more detail your product images have, the better the results you will have. Yes, studio pictures of a big flat screen TV work just fine, but is just fine good enough for you? People want to see details, show them!
Quality and relevance
Below I will show you some results of different studies. You will see several websites marked with heat zones. The red areas indicate where the users’ eyes were mostly focused, while the blue areas show the exact opposite, indicating what is ignored or a turn-off for visitors.
Besides the fact that it is an incredibly outdated design, you can clearly see that none of the heat zones are on images. It is because all the images embedded in their webpage are purely fillers. Had they been using relevant pictures, the heat zones might have been a bit different, but for now it shows how much of a waste of space images are on their site.
Another good example can be seen below. New York Magazine’s restaurant section has also been part of the eye-tracking study and it shows that even if worldwide known chefs are featured in images, the quality is still important. So even if the pictures are somewhat relevant, low-contrast and small size images are simply ignored. Image quality is as important is the relevance of the image being used. There has to be a balance, where quality and relevance are the two guiding principles.
Jakob Nielsen and Kara Pernice wrote an article entitled “Images as Obstacles” some years ago. The images above are courtesy of Peachpit and the amazing heads who published the study. Thank you for your tremendous work!
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