Choosing the Right Images
Although the written content of your website is crucial, the images you choose are also quite important. The expression “a picture is worth a thousand words” is worth considering when designing your website. People will make a decision within the first few seconds on whether they want to stay on your site or leave. You need to grab their attention right from the start with a good first impression! Images play a significant role and you should think about them early in the design process.
Although it goes without saying, your website should look professional and be well-organized. People scan websites to see if it has the information they are looking for. The images you use on your website should be treated as content and given as much thought as you give the text. The images should support the written content, they should provide meaningful information to the user, and they should also reflect your brand.
When choosing the images for your website, you will need to evaluate your images. Ask yourself if the image passes the basic tests for quality, size, composition, and exposure. The resolution should be 72 dpi and the image should be the correct size and in the proper orientation, either landscape or portrait, to fit the space you want to use it in. The composition should be balanced and draw attention to a particular area of the image, and the exposure should be as light or dark as necessary. Contrast is necessary if you will be placing text on top of the image. Dark text works best on light backgrounds, whereas light text works best on dark backgrounds. You may be able to modify some of the attributes in an image editing program such as Photoshop so you may not have to rule all images out.
Your website should look professional and be well-organized.
Once the image passes these tests, determine how effective the image is. You can do this by asking several questions. What impact will the image have on the user? Does it evoke a desirable emotion and communicate the intended message well? Does the image tell the story you want to tell about your products and services? Does the image communicate what the product is about and how easy it is to use? Useful images help us understand something, teach us how to use something, or show us how something is done. You want to encourage users to buy your products. Don’t use an image as a decorative placeholder. You can see a selection of both good and bad photos in The Web Designers’ Guide to Photo Selection - Envato Tuts+ Web Design Tutorial.
Your images can be photographs or illustrations. It really depends on the style of your website and your brand. You want to create a harmonious website, so make sure the images you choose work well together. It is a good idea to be consistent with the style so your website has a cohesive look.
Many website have a large photo on the home page, while other websites rely heavily on illustrations. You can use stock photos, take your own photographs, or have a professional photographer take the photographs. You can use stock clipart or have an illustrator create custom graphics for your business. Many websites sell stock photos and clipart. The price range runs from low to high. Some sites require that you have a subscription. Realize that other businesses may use the same stock photos and illustrations. Keep this in mind if you want your website to be unique.
Photos taken by a professional photographer and custom-made illustrations can add a fortune to your website’s business value. Everyone has a different budget. Use the best images possible. Remember that your website is an investment. Don’t settle for an image that doesn’t work.
Author: Annette M. Lange, website and graphic designer at Lange Art & Design