A picture is worth a thousand words.
So which pictures work best on the Internet?
Often we can see that the use of face pictures is most powerful, especially if the person in the image is smiling. As human beings we are attracted and interested in other faces.
If a face is not appropriate then the image should show the subject in its best light. This is not to dupe or confuse the viewer but to give them the best and most interesting aspect to look at.
When buying online purchasers often like to see several views of an item before they click ‘buy now’. It is useful to give an overall image showing the entire item and then include detail shots showing clearly what is special about a product.
We tend to make buying decisions on irrational feelings which are then rationalised by the mind. Consequently we want to make our images as attractive and intuitively engaging as we can, so that visitors love what they see before they have any conscious thoughts of buying or owning the item.
Landscape v Portrait
Some years ago we learned that in general images in landscape aspect work better than those in portrait. It is difficult to know exactly why this is but if you look around the Internet you will see that most websites use the landscape aspect for almost every shot. Also we now have widescreen TV which is of course in landscape aspect.
Perhaps it is because our eyes are next to each other rather than one above the other? Whatever the reason, most of us enjoy landscape images and they seem to give the best experience to the viewer.
In printed media it has been known for some time that viewers of pages in magazines and newspapers scan the page in a Z shape. From left to right along the top, then down to the bottom left and across again from left to right. So you often see a graphical ‘tripping point’ in the bottom right corner of the page. This is intended to stop the eye from simply going on to the next page.
On web pages it is not so clear how the eye moves but there has been much research to suggest that users tend to scan a web page looking for something that engages their eye. This can be a word, phrase, link or graphic.
Often the top of the page is the most significant because if the visitor is engaged at the top of the page they have no need to scroll looking for what they want.
On larger web sites where information is in hundreds or thousands of pages or in a database then the ‘search’ function becomes very important and many users will go straight to the search box without even looking through the contents list or navigation. In this instance images need to underpin the messages and credibility of the site without detracting from the ease of use and quick access to the right information.
Like so much of life, business is not an exact science and communication is very personal and individualised.
In working for an artists collective a few years ago I realised that there is value in treating every piece of content, be it text or image, as if it were a person in its own right. With individual strengths and positive aspects to try and accentuate on the web site. After all the web is two dimensional and basically flat.
So the challenge is to bring some depth and quality to all the images used. And keep always trying to improve of course.