The Well Dressed Website (Why Visual Content Matters to Website Design)

April 1, 2014 | Posted in B2B, Software & Services, Technology and tagged , , ,

When it comes to your website, image really is everything. The old adage about a picture being worth a thousand words holds truer today than it ever has. But that’s just the beginning of the story. You already know that it’s imperative that your web design contain some well-chosen imagery to enhance its visual appeal. What you may not know is exactly why or how.

Catch the Eye

Every holiday season in New York City, visitors delight in taking in the festive, imaginative and often spectacular window displays that punctuate the city’s streets. For decades, stores have paid creative minds to attempt to top their competition by creating some of the most captivating imagery imaginable, designed to catch the attention of passersby and, hopefully, to hold that attention long enough to draw them inside the store.

macys-window-1

While this pageantry is now far from the only means of luring new customers, the principles that work on Fifth Avenue storefronts also work on websites.

Like the person hurrying by the store, a person visiting your website will give you only seconds to catch her eye. It’s highly unlikely that she will begin reading walls of text no matter how interesting the content. A well chosen photo or video will grab her in a way words never could.

Why is that? Because we were born to see and process images, to interpret their meaning in a fraction of a second. Words take much longer to digest, and that’s time you don’t want to waste.

Relevant and/or Illustrative

With so much riding on it, you’ll want your visual content to serve a very specific purpose, and do so quickly. That purpose will vary greatly – it may be a striking product image, an image that underscores the point you are making in a blog post, or a photo that sets the tone for that particular page. Whatever its intended purpose, make sure it’s clear as glass. You don’t want your visitor trying to understand why on earth there is a photo of a dog in pants gracing the page unless a dog wearing pants perfectly illustrates what you are trying to say.

Make it Professional

Freaked_out_cartoon_character1Maybe you take great pictures. You probably do, in this age of Instagram and Snapchat and prosumer monster-pixel cameras. However, it’s a virtual certainty that you don’t take the kind of great pictures you will need for your website. You might be fantastic with landscapes, but what you need is macro shots of gemstones. Or you might need photos of friendly looking medical staff, or a breathtaking image of the Amalfi Coast.

For your own sake and that of your website, invest in professional looking images and videos. It doesn’t have to cost much at all – gorgeous stock photos can be had for a few dollars because, for web viewing, you need not purchase wall-plastering sizes.

It’s sad to say, but people really do judge books by the covers, and first impressions really do count. A lot. If visitors to your website see subpar photos on your website, they are going to assume your service or credentials are subpar as well, even if you’re a board certified heart surgeon.

Use a Little Restraint

There was a time when high quality images had to be used sparingly or risk wasting precious time as the photos slowly unfurled a millimeter at a time, driving away impatient visitors.

Happily, those days are largely gone now. However, that doesn’t mean that you should dump endless streams of unnecessary pictures just because you can. I recently visited a blog to read an article I had a real interest in. Unfortunately, the blog’s owner had a rather severe case of pics gone wild and she had sprinkled at least a dozen bloated (huge files) photos in between each and every paragraph of this one page article.

It wouldn’t have been quite so bad if they photos had served any purpose whatsoever, but they were all stock photos that did nothing to enhance the information she was trying to share. After reloading the page several times only to have the page jump around as it struggled to load the images, I finally clicked away in frustration, no wiser on the topic than when I’d arrived.

Remember, less is more. And make sure everything you include serves your purpose.

Conversion & Sharing

There have been numerous studies showing the staggering effect images have on converting prospective customers into paying customers. Create a good first impression by using clear, attractive photographs and you have the potential to increase your bottom line almost overnight.

And once you have converted those customers, you can be sure they’ll want to tell others about you. Make it easy for them by including sharing and other social media buttons on your images where appropriate. Articles are far more likely to be shared if they are accompanied by a pin-worthy photo – another reason to make sure your photography is the very best you can possibly get.

When it comes to your website design, beauty is much more than skin deep. Visual content is a vital component of attracting and keeping customers. If you invest in dressing your website for success, you will begin reaping the benefits with your very next visitor.

About Scott Weiss

Scott Weiss is the founder of Somethumb, a creative services agency focused on web design and development. "Like" us on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter, "Plus-One" us on Google+, "Connect" with us on LinkedIn, and view our portfolio on Somethumb.com.

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