Designing and developing a website is no easy feat. In addition to the time and attention you need to ensure it works correctly, there are many other factors at play such as SEO and content strategies, graphic design and, the focus of this article, visuals. A visually effective website design that not only matches, but boosts your brand presence, is important. And, if competition is rife, finding an original approach and ideas for creating strong visuals on your website is even more difficult to do.
However, professional photography and imagery are often pushed down the priority lists of many marketers, often becoming an afterthought in the web design, development, and launching processes. This guide is here to tell you how that can be – and often is – a crucial mistake and why marketers should not overlook the importance of emphatic, engaging, supporting website images and photos.
Why are visuals and professional photography important for websites?
Human beings are intrinsically drawn to imagery and visuals more than text. That said, it’s surprising how easy it is to overlook the role and presence of visuals when building and designing a business website. Whether it’s a brochure site or a fully-integrated eCommerce platform (with complex functionalities or plugins), the front-end (customer-facing) side needs to be aesthetically pleasing and easy to use, above all else.
However, when it comes to development, migration, functionality, testing, and so on, it’s not uncommon to find that more time is spent perfecting the back-end (unseen) side of the website. Therefore, it’s not surprising that images are often sought during the very final stages of the website-building process.
If imagery isn’t prioritised, and you instead launch with subpar, irrelevant, or generic imagery that serves no purpose to the design and any content your site has, it can damage the brand story you’re trying to tell. If you throw a collection of basic stock images together without any real strategy behind their intended purpose, they will act as more of a deterrent to potential customers that stumble across your site.
Overlooking imagery can also create a sense of inconsistency and perplexion for customers who are trying to understand what you do and how you add value. It’s all well and good to focus more of your efforts on ranking on search engines for relevant terms, but if your imagery isn’t playing an active supporting role, it can lead to missed opportunities and lost business.
Many businesses make valid points about operating in niche spaces in which it’s hard to convey what they do and their point of difference through imagery. For example, if a company provides services rather than products, or operates on a consultancy, training, mentorship, or advisory basis. It can be challenging to convey this through imagery that isn’t stock photos of boardrooms, happy-looking employees, documents, and other tried-and-tested images that won’t look out of place in a corporate environment. In such cases, it might stand to reason that text and infographics add more value than images on such a website. Nonetheless, that does not mean you should ignore visual elements completely.
Benefits of professional website imagery
Here are five key benefits of investing in professional imagery for your website, either by hiring a professional corporate or commercial photographer or by taking photos yourself.
Command attention and more emotive
People’s attention spans are notoriously short – averaging roughly 8.25 seconds – especially when browsing or shopping online. To learn more about products or services, engaging images, graphics or videos go much further than wordy paragraphs of text.
If your website has aesthetically engaging imagery, people will be more likely to view and click through to it. Images can present important details in a way that’s more digestible for the average site visitor. As such, they will be more likely to stay on your site and become paying customers.
Enhance your product and brand
It’s no secret that well-written content goes a long way in explaining complex products or services, but images are the vital ingredients that bring your products or services to life. Unique images engage audiences in a truly authentic way, helping you to communicate your brand values or story almost immediately. People are drawn to what they can relate to, and your imagery can elevate your brand presence in that way.
Strong images also act as visual aids to interested prospective customers, helping them to imagine how they might use or benefit from a product in action, or see how their lives may be made easier after consulting with you.
Improve accessibility and user experience
User experience is important in any marketing strategy. Since UX defines large parts of how customers interact with and purchase from your business, optimised and engaging visuals go a long way in smoothing and improving that experience. Using the right fonts, animations, colours, branding and so on, in line with the website theme and design, should not detract from the experience.
Additionally, from a technical perspective, the image alt text is crucial. Companies that define alt text attributes for images are being more inclusive and providing an accessible experience for people with visual impairments. Facilitating accessibility is vital for reaching more customers across different demographics.
Result in higher search engine rankings
As said above, the image alt text is vital. Adding captions to your image code provides useful information about that image for people that are using technology such as screen readers. However, the captions also serve a vital SEO purpose.
If you add genuine, realistic descriptions of the image content, while smartly using keywords if possible, you stand a good chance of being found for organic search terms relevant to that caption. Google Images is responsible for over 20% of all online searches, putting it ahead of YouTube, Bing and other search engines combined.
Engage customers with more memorable information
Nowadays, consumers are surrounded by more real-time data, information and content than ever before, certainly compared to past years. Therefore, it’s become even more vital for marketers to strike that memorable first impression on customers, particularly considering the competitiveness of certain sectors.
We can process images much more quickly than textual content, often in as little as 13 milliseconds. We are also more likely to remember images than words. As such, customers might be able to retain more useful product information if they were to revisit your site in the future, with visuals positively influencing the decision-making processes of people, ergo, improving conversion rates.
Examples of visuals that improve a website
It’s clear to see that strong visuals are a valuable digital asset for any business website, especially one that wants to convert visitors into customers.
While that salient point rings true, that doesn’t make choosing visuals or images any less difficult. Especially when you consider the relatively low bar that stock image libraries set, exhibiting very slapdash and widely-used photos that simply become background noise after a while.
However, you can find a diamond in the rough this way, finding a superb image to use. That said, it’s highly unlikely you’ll find one that communicates your brand’s unique value proposition in the way you want it to. If you’re struggling to find one that strikes the right emotional chords, consider these types of visuals for your site.
- User-generated content
- Blog post photos
- 360° product views
- Large header images
- Lifestyle imagery
- Corporate headshots or portraits
- 3D images
- Emotional photos
- Intricate technical product photos
- In-action images
- Instructional videos
- Case studies
Hopefully, the above list will provide you with food for thought when deciding what images to use. Ultimately, the visuals need to reflect what you do and how you add value.
It’s unlikely you’ll find imagery that truly encapsulates all of what you want straight away, and you may have to get those creative juices flowing before you find the right ones.
Guest blog by Dakota Murphey.