Beautiful Imagery For Your Website: What It Is, Where to Find It, & How To Use It
In my last post here on the elegant themes blog, we talked about creative ways to drive more traffic to your website. In today’s post, we’re going to talk about one specific way to increase engagement and improve conversion rates so you can get the most out of all that new traffic.
Specifically, we’re going to be talking about the importance of using beautiful imagery in all things associated with your website. That includes your over-all site design, landing pages, blog posts, associated social accounts, search result rich snippets, and more.
As the title would suggest, this isn’t exactly an open ended discussion in our book. We feel the data shows pretty conclusively that images improve user engagement–and beautiful (brand appropriate) images all the more.
You don’t have to take our word for it though. Check out the data for yourself!
The Facts Are In: Images Improve Engagement
In a post on the Search Engine People blog in May of 2014, they rounded up some interested facts and studies that prove images in web design (and on web platforms) increase engagement.
Among the many interesting facts/studies they site, here are a few I find most compelling and relevant to our discussion today:
- Research by Stanford University shows that for 46.1% of the people who view a website, the site’s design quality is their top criteria for deciding if the company/brand are credible or not.
- Bright Local found that 60% of consumers prefer local search results that include images
- A Skyword Study found that content including a relevant photograph or infographic increased its total views by 94% compared to content without an image in the same category
Clearly, images are important.
But, the Wrong Kind of Images Can Hurt Your Brand & Conversion Rate
As Derek Halpern of the popular blog Social Triggers points out in a post called How Images Improve–or Destroy–Conversion Rates, just throwing any old image up on your website or into your content is not enough.
According to him and the study he cites, using images for purely decorative purposes or images that are not relevant to the information they accompany can significantly decrease your conversion rates.
Depending on just how random or unhelpful your images are they can even hurt your brand, as it associates you and your message with something that can be ignored.
Hence, the Need for Beautiful Imagery (That is Brand Appropriate)
But what does that mean? Beauty, to be sure, is a subjective term. Which makes defining what, exactly, we mean when we talk about “beautiful imagery” difficult.
Ultimately, deciding on if something is “beautiful” or not will probably come down to personal taste. However, there are some general guidelines you can follow that will give you a better shot at tapping into something considered objectively attractive to a wider audience.
General Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Images
Now that we can all agree on the importance of images, let’s talk about the right way to use them when adding them to your website.
Remember: Quality & Beauty Are Essential to Perception
As we’ve already mentioned, high quality and beautiful imagery is important for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the perception of your brand/business as reputable and the resulting conversions.
But what does “high quality” and “beauty” mean in this context? I’ve listed a few that I hope we can all agree on:
- Using the proper image extension (jpg, gif, png, etc.)
- Proper levels of compression. No unnecessary bloating with massive image files, but also being careful not to compress the clarity of your images out altogether.
- In photographs, lighting matters. Don’t use images that are overly grainy, blurry, dark, or washed out.
- If using photos, use photos that follow some basic rules of photographic composition.
- If using a graphic, use graphical elements and/or full images that follow basic rules of graphical composition.
- Try to maintain a level of consistency. If you tend to use illustrations or other graphic design style images–stick to those as much as possible. Same goes for photographs.
- If you’re talking about a detail, show it. Such as showing a close up of a relevant button/setting in a plugin tutorial instead of allowing the detail to be lost in a larger screenshot.
(Feel free to add to this list in the comments below if you feel I’ve missed something important.)
Keep Your Images Relevant
It’s possible that you could follow all of the tips I’ve just mentioned above for ensuring that you have a high quality, beautiful image–and still miss the mark. That’s because if an image isn’t relevant to what you’re talking about or asking your visitor to do, then it’s nothing more than a distraction–no matter how awesome it is.
Faces Humanize (And Convert)
We humans, despite the existence of basement dwellers and workaholics, are a social bunch. The mere sight of another human face is proven to get a positive response from us. That’s why many have seen consistently better results on landing pages (in both sales and customer support) featuring bright, inviting faces.
Line of Sight Focuses Attention
You can continue to use the human face, specifically the eyes, to help nudge your visitor’s attention in the right direction by directing the line of sight of people in your images towards content or calls to action.
Big Images Sell
One reason why the one page, responsive site has blossomed in popularity in recent years, in my opinion, is because it tends to feature sections with big full-width images that convert better than anything else. If you happen to be a Divi user, you can accomplish this with ease using the Divi page builder and test the rise or fall in your conversion rates for yourself.
Color Speaks its Own Language
It is well established that color theory plays a large role in customer/user experience and behavior. Certain colors choices make your content easier to read and consume, red buttons convert better than green buttons, blue inspires trust, etc.
Whatever your site goals are and whatever you want to say, it’s worth making sure your color choices are saying the same thing as your words and that your general design is optimized for a pleasant experience.
For a quick primer on color theory and web design, check out this article. For a quick introduction to the psychology of color for web design (with a focus on improved conversion rates), check out this article.
Where to Find High Quality, Beautiful Images
One of the biggest obstacles to using all of the tips and information above is the simple fact that finding great images (especially ones that you are allowed to use) is difficult and time consuming.
Not long ago I published a post here called A Quick Guide to Creative Commons Image Plugins for WordPress. This post was designed to highlight a few useful tools for quickly finding and inserting royalty free images into your WordPress content. For many of you, that post will be a great place to start your search.
If however, you want or need more options for great images you can use on your website, the links below should provide a more exhaustive (but still focused) range for your search. And as much as I’d like to take credit for these little lists, I have Steve from Site Builder Report to thank for them. He listed these sites/tools and more in a post over on their blog from back in November of 2014.
Photo blogs who publish high quality images that are not on stock photo websites are a great way to lend your site/content some uniqueness and originality. Just be sure to take note of their licensing/accreditation policies.
- New Old Stock
- Move East
- Life of Pix
- Kaboom Pics
- Designer Pics
- Iso Republic
- Startup Stock Photos
- Jay Mantri
- Je Shoots
Photo Search Engines
If on the other hand, you are willing to search through the often sea of bad images on royalty free stock photo websites in order to find the good stuff, then this list will give you plenty to sift through.
- Photo Morgue
- Flickr (not all are royalty free, but many)
- Pic Jumbo
- Wikimedia Commons
- Stock Photos for Free
- Free Images
Premium Photo Services
If you have some money in your budget for images, then the following sites/services can be a great tool for finding exactly what you need in a quick and legal fashion.
Hire a Professional
Finally, if you either don’t have the time/energy/desire to get this aspect of your website just right, it may be beneficial to simply hire a professional.
There are a lot of potential benefits to this approach. For one, professional will have their own resources for acquiring or creating images. Such as a camera or access to high quality graphics and images like the ones linked to above.
Additionally, they will most likely (if they’re any good) be trained in using and recognizing the tips and theories I mentioned earlier. Which will make implementation much easier and faster for them since they’re using skills and knowledge they’re well acquainted with.
The overwhelming consensus of data seems to be saying that images and the web were made for each other. Most of human kind is what is known as a “visual learner” and we all tend to remember and respond to things that we see and experience more readily than things that we simply read or hear.
That’s why in this post we learned not only that images (in a broad, general sense) are what’s needed for improved site performance, but high quality, beautiful imagery that is brand appropriate. We also took a look at some tips and best practices for implementing those images on our sites and linked out to various places around the web where high quality, beautiful images can be found.
If you have anything to add to this post or a thought to share with the community, I hope you’ll take a few seconds to drop us a line in the comments below.
Article thumbnail via Max Griboedov // shutterstock.com