For a moment, imagine all websites had no images. Just chunks of endless text, links and whatnot but no images. That would be the mother of all eye sores now wouldn’t it be? We would all suffer from splitting eye ache keeping up with all the text. Man, we would have the longest of days in every sense of it.
But since we already have images, let’s get back to the important things. Images are an important part of any website. You can use images to cement a company’s brand, drive engagement and generally provide an awesome user experience. You can use images to compliment your marketing message, and you can further use images to boost your SEO rankings.
For the above reasons, you need to be vigilant when choosing images for your website. Remember, you can’t go around “plucking” images from wherever on the internet like it’s the Garden of Eden or something. There are several factors to consider when choosing the perfect images for your web site. Today’s post will shine light on the guidelines you should use to choose the perfect images for your current or next project. Have fun and share your thoughts in the comments.
This is quite obvious – you can’t use images that don’t augment the purpose of the website. Such a move would only spell failure. Now you don’t want imagery to be the reason why you can’t get through to your target audience. Choosing relevant images for your project means you have to define:
- The purpose of your website (What will it do)
- Your target audience (The things they like, purchasing power etc)
Armed with this kind of information, you can choose images that click with your audience; images that cater to your ideal customer; images that convey your website’s message boldly and clearly. Images that will communicate desirably with prospects and clients too.
Images that are irrelevant to your cause might confuse, annoy or send away prospective customers. You don’t want to waste a single lead because your images threw the client off – stick to relevance. Use images to give your prospects a chance to identify, relate and connect with your website (hence your products) as a solution to their problems.
Every brand has a personality that is made up of characteristics specific only to the company behind the brand. Company culture, beliefs and whatnot. Well-thought-out images can help you to strengthen brand personality to move the company’s agenda further forward. Images give you the opportunity to convey desired brand characteristic in a way no other medium can.
Which brand impression do you wish to create on your website? Does the brand have a funny side? Do you want to create the impression of being on the edge? Energetic? Professional? Your solution lies in images. The Red Bull team has put images into good use. What impression does the following illustration give you about Red Bull?
Think about Your Offer
Do you run or plan to launch an e-commerce store? If you said yes, you can use your product images to champion your cause. As a matter of fact, you don’t need other images with the exception of your logo and such. Just take a page from Gucci. They focus on their products entirely and the result is simply awesome:
Side Note: This is applicable to all websites with products images not just e-commerce sites.
Can you use creative graphics to illustrate your services or demonstrate work flow? Take advantage of images to draw attention to your offer.
As we hinted earlier, you just can’t go around lifting images from the internet and using them on your website as if they were your own. The brutal truth is you could serve a jail term or/and pay heavy fines for copyright infringement. Additionally, you could hurt your brand credibility, hence lose favor in the eyes of your prospects.
Just don’t violate anyone’s copyright and you won’t go wrong here. To help you steer clear of copyright infringement, it’s crucial to understand a few basic things about image licensing. Images on the web are provided under the following licenses:
Creative Commons License
If you would like to play favorites, you want to focus your image search here. Why? Because Creative Commons images are readily available and free to use as well as edit. This means you can use the image as you wish as long as you credit the original author. You don’t have to add attribution to Creative Commons images if you’ve manipulated the same to create truly unique images. There are seven types of the Creative Common License, so do your research before using any web image to avoid copyright-related complications.
Public Domain License
While it can be challenging to determine whether or not an image is in the public domain, you can use public domain images without restrictions and without asking for permission. You can choose to credit the original owner if you so wish. At the same time, you should establish for a fact that the public domain images you choose can be used for commercial projects just to be on the safe side.
Royalty-free Image License
First off, I would like to set something straight. Well, it’s more like dispelling a common misconception than setting something straight. The misconception is that royalty-free images are free. Whoa, are they not? Royalty-free images are not free. They could be cheap (with images selling for as little as $0.20 each) but they are definitely not free.
Second, what else do you need to know about royalty-free images? Oh yeah, you are free to use royalty-free images as you wish (or within restrictions) but you can never resell or edit the images. What a bummer. First, they are not free. Second, you can’t edit or even resell them to recoup your expenses should they outlive their purpose.
Professionally-curated and high quality (sharp-angle kind of quality) images live here. Access to this image nirvana involves purchasing the image rights for a given period. During this period, nobody else on the entire planet has access to any image you buy. You get exclusive and exceptional images that will help you to build your brand. Rights-managed images are usually costly and a bit subjective in that you must decide in advance how you will use the images.
If you don’t want to compromise on image quality and have deep pockets, purchasing rights-managed images if the best option. Otherwise, feel free to try your luck with the other three categories. Now that we have image licensing covered, should you choose free or paid images?
Free or Paid Images?
There are several factors to consider when choosing between free and paid images including image quality, uniqueness and of course your budget. As we saw earlier, high-quality royalty-free images cost anywhere from $0.20 to $50 and at times beyond. Rights-managed images are pricey (at about $200 per image) but you get high quality and semi-exclusive rights to the image.
You can get free high-quality images, but the mere fact they are free-for-all means many other people could use the same images to the detriment of your brand image. You can always choose free Creative Commons/Public Domain and edit them to compliment your brand.
If you have a sizeable budget to spend on images, buy royalty-free or rights-managed images. Just don’t compromise on quality, uniqueness or break the bank in pursuit of the perfect images.
Image Appeal and Quality
Hey, and this goes without saying, the images you ultimately choose must have visual appeal. Seems obvious but stunning imagery will entice your target audience to engage with your website.
Other than visual appeal, you might want to convey certain messages or trigger some form of emotional response in your prospective customers. Your images need to have this emotive appeal. If you want to establish a certain tone throughout your content, choose images that appeal to this particular cause.
Still on image appeal, what purpose will your images serve? Will you use an image to add information or purely for decoration purposes? The secret here is striking the right balance between decoration and adding information.
Another thing. To which group of people do you images appeal? Do your images represent your company, your ideal customer or both? Make this clear. Only choose high quality images that don’t lose visual appeal or quality after manipulation e.g. cropping and resizing. Choose the right size of images as larger than necessary sizes will slow down your site significantly.
Takeaway: Use high-quality and unique images and strike the right balance between adding information and decoration. Paid images are often of higher quality than free images.
If you need truly unique and high-quality images that won’t violate anyone’s copyright, take the high road and capture your own images. Taking your own pictures gives you exactly what you want provided your photography skills are worth a mention.
Taking your own pictures usually takes time but instead of perceiving this as a demerit, think of all the benefits that come with it. For instance, you get to hone your photography skills and step away from your work desk. In addition, personal images (or portraits of your team) can add personality and warmth to your website.
Attending a social event this weekend? Why don’t you bring your camera along and take a couple of photos for your about page? You can even hangout with your ideal customer and take their pictures as well. Of course, you want to ask for permission before you start clicking away, not because it’s illegal but because it’s polite.
Optimize Image for All Screen Sizes
We are in the era of responsive web design baby! If you’ve adopted responsive design techniques, then you must ensure your images are responsive as well. SVG images files can be resized without losing quality, so they’re probably the best for responsive design. All in all, create provisions for image responsiveness. Want help with that?
- Responsive Images Community Group
- Which Responsive Images Solutions Should You Use?
- Testing Responsive Images
Edit Your Images
Use your image editing software or many of the available online tools to add flavor and oomph to your images. Just ensure you’re not violating any copyright in the process. Depending on your image editing skills, you can build on or subtract from an image and merge two images among other things to create the perfect images for your website.
Are you having fun? If so, I will help you take that a notch higher. The following is a list of image resources to make your work easier:
Public Domain Images
- Flickr Commons
- Getty open content images
- Wikimedia Commons public domain photos
- UCLA Library’s
- Harvard Library
And many others…
With this resource, you are now in a better position to choose the perfect images for your website. With the millions of free and paid images out there, you have no excuse to choose poor quality images. Did we fail to mention something important? Please point it out in the comments! 🙂