The age old adage ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’ is still as relevant today as ever. As we shop, connect, and socialise online, our main communication mode is visual, so using images becomes key to getting your message across.
Pictures can convey a story, emotion or solution in a matter of seconds; they can motivate people to respond quickly and effectively. However if you want your site to perform well online, it’s not as simple as choosing a few distinctive pictures and including them in your content, so let’s look at some best practice for using images to give impact and support your conversion goals.
Know your conversion goals first
Your images are essentially part of your call to action process so when composing and including images on a site, it’s first important to identify what you’re trying to achieve.
Do you want visitors to:
- stay longer on your site to read information?
- sign up to be a subscriber?
- click through to your portfolio?
- buy something?
- contact you for a quote?
- engage and connect?
Whatever the goal, once you know this it makes it far easier to determine the best way to implement images so they are used in a way that will support your business.
Tips for using images online
1. Always use high quality images
This is a given, but still an important point to make because I cannot stress enough how important good quality images are. Low resolution images shot in poor lighting with bad framing just won’t cut the mustard. If you don’t fancy yourself as a good photographer, then pay someone who is, it’s an investment you won’t regret.
The Brisbane Powerhouse is a busy arts venue and it uses it’s website to sell tickets. Their home page showcases well photographed, punchy hero shots for all their featured performances. Their choice of images are so intriguing you can’t help but click through to ‘find out more’. The decision to use high quality, well-shot images pays off as most shows at this venue are often sold out or played to packed houses.
2. Use images to shorten copy
You can use images to shorten the amount of words you need to get the message across. We know that readers scan web pages so pictures can help draw attention to the most important information quickly. When doing this, make sure the images are clear and are positioned close to the relevant content.
Evernote do this very successfully. By combining succinct copy with their images, their product’s benefits are communicated very quickly and with few words.
3. Show your product
Sounds simple I know, but if you’re selling something, then make sure your images show your product. Have a clear hero shot and include supplementary pictures to give your visitors a taste of what you’re selling. Use a gallery that will present your images in all their glory so potential buyers will be convinced your product is what they want.
Rushfaster sell laptop bags and their site uses a lightbox function for their product pictures. What I really love is that their images display the bags viewed from different angles and in situ so I can get a real sense of how the bag functions. This takes a lot of the guess work out of buying online and makes the decision to purchase much easier.
4. Avoid stock images
Stock images have their place, however make sure you know when to avoid using them. If you’re talking about people, then use pictures of people, real people. There’s nothing more disappointing than a website that tries to trick you into connecting with it’s brand by using models with fake shiny teeth.
The Belvoir Theatre uses a warm and well composed photograph to connect their visitors with the company’s Artistic Director. Images that use real people can break down barriers and are more likely to draw your visitors in, helping them engage with your brand, business or service much quicker.
5. Use images to show products in context
If you ‘re selling something, then demonstrate it in action. Show your visitors how your product functions, the best way for them to use it and it’s benefits. Neglecting to show this is a missed opportunity.
Have a look at Basecamp for example, they use well placed annotated screen shots to show their application in action. This helps visitors get a sense of the features and benefits of Basecamp. If you can visually situate your product in their lives, it motivates visitors to act.
6. Optimise images for different users
No conversation about using images online would be complete without a reminder that if you’re going to use images, have some consideration for our blind and vision impaired friends out there. Make sure you use descriptive alternative text, not only is it good accessibility practice, it’s great for SEO too!
The rise of sites like Pinterest and Instagram have taught us anything, it is that images don’t take a backseat to text and video, they are an important piece of the marketing puzzle.
Don’t just stick any old image on your web pages. Take your time, select high-quality images. You’ll be glad you did.