Why is it important to have good imagery on my website?

This is easy to answer. Humans are very visual and tend to look first and ask questions later. Essentially, this means our brains will focus on the imagery before reading the wording on a website. On a more biological level, our brains store images in our long-term memory whereas text is stored in our short-term memory. Images register in our brains much faster than words on a page do. It goes without saying that words are essential to help users learn about your product or services, as well as increasing the chances of your web pages ranking well in search engines. However, as your website has only a few seconds to make the right first impression, it’s the images that users will tend to look at first, thereby being a key factor as to whether they stay on your website or leave.

Good photography can be used in your website for many purposes. It can showcase your work, help to reinforce a point you wish to make, or be used to evoke an emotion in your users. One popular option is to show a photo of your team at your premises. This is a great way to communicate the personal side of your business to your potential customers and helps build trust in your brand / company. Imagery is also important from a usability point of view. A good web page should contain relevant images that aid the user journey by acting as signposts to help users navigate to the page they are interested in quickly and easily.

How do I know if my imagery is good enough?

OK, let’s start by asking a few questions. Do you already have a website? If so, were the images created and uploaded by a professional web design agency as part of the build process? If they were I would expect the images to have been edited and formatted in the correct way so they look their best. Professional web designers should be very experienced at photo editing and use the right tools for the job, like Adobe Photoshop.

If, on the other hand, you or a member of your team were responsible for creating and adding the images to your site – or you’re in the process of planning a new website and it’s down to you to create, format and upload the images – then I would recommend reading the tips below to ensure your images don’t fall foul of these common mistakes.

Low Quality Images

When advising a client on uploading images, we always ask them to provide sufficiently high resolution files. After all, I’m sure they want their images to look as good as possible on all devices.

Nowadays, users often surf the web on devices with incredibly high resolution displays resulting in far greater clarity. The use of retina-ready (retina is Apple’s term for high resolution screen sizes) imagery has now become part of the web development process. Using low resolution images on your website might be acceptable if all of the users are viewing your website on desktop computers with older displays, but as more and more people surf the web on mobile devices, the resolution of your images becomes an increasingly important factor.

The tricky part is getting the balance right between high quality images and website speed / performance. Higher resolution images will result in larger file sizes and, inevitably, slower load times of your web pages, which can be disastrous. However, as internet connections such as Wi-fi and 4G increase in speed we will see a continued increase in higher resolution images being used on websites.


Stock photography

We cannot blog about imagery without mentioning stock photography. For many years stock photography has been the ‘go-to’ place for web (and graphic) designers who are not supplied with good photography from the client. Using stock photography can be a fantastic, cost-effective solution and there are plenty of libraries to choose from. I often purchase stock images on behalf of clients from sites such as iStock and Shutterstock, both of which contain a huge collection of professional photos and vector graphics. Do note, however, that these popular websites are not as cheap as they once were, so be sure to pay particular attention to the price of each image.

Whether you opt for unique photography (either shot by a us or yourself) or stock photography, be sure to consider your brand and your target audience. Many large companies will include guidance on the usage of photography within their brand guidelines to ensure that all images used in their marketing materials are ‘on brand’ and convey the right message. You should look to do the same as it’s important to be consistent and not to confuse your potential customers.

Finally, just remember the opening paragraph of this post; users tend to focus on imagery before wording. So, if you’re keen for your website to make a great first impression, then pay particular attention to the images within it as they will play a significant role in achieving this.