Best Way to Use Pictures (or BWUP if you like acronyms)

Actually, “bwup” is that involuntary¬†hiccup you make after eating a large Sunday roast washed down with a nice bottle of red. Neither burp, nor hiccup… It isn’t often that I manage to digress within the first sentence of an article (oh dear! My Google rating!), but I liked the sound the acronym made.

Now I’ll admit I’m not technical schmecnical when it comes to the web. I don’t know how to “code” stuff, but I know what it looks like when some whizzkid has done a bit of something clever to make images prance about on a page or fade from one image to the next in a slideshow. What this article looks at is the benefits and pitfalls of two common kinds of presentation and some tips to help you get more from your corporate images.

Of course the most obvious method of presentation is the static image. No whistles, bells or silliness, but even without adornments this basic staple of websites can be used to best effect and all too often isn’t.

For the single, static image you can use newspaper rules of placement. In other words, place the image where it will have most impact, and where it will lead the viewer onto the text. In other words, in general terms, if the image has a natural “emphasis” towards the right of its frame, think about placing it to the left of any relevant text. Or, if a picture simply has to be in a right-hand column of the web page, make sure you choose one where the emphasis is to the left. Using this simple rule you can gently guide the viewer’s eye around your page and use images to push people’s attention towards those page elements you want to emphasise.

People always (ALWAYS!!!) look at images first, text second. I’m not saying they seek out pictures before bothering with the rest of the site. What I mean is, if an image is visible on the web page, that’s where the eyes will fall first. That’s the entry point for the page. That’s also why the images are so important. The very first of the first impressions about your business are made (or broken) within the images.

modern dancers ballet on stage

Does the image lead your eyes left or right?

With that in mind, I’m not sure I’m such a huge fan of the slideshow. My own website features one as the main element of the Home page, but bear in mind I’m in the business of selling my photography services, so presenting a selection of images in a quick and simple way is pretty important for me.

If photography isn’t what you’re selling, I would generally suggest slideshows aren’t the best idea. Very often you’ll see slideshows on the Home pages of firms offering professional services. In principle this isn’t a bad idea, except that the images are often nothing more than bought-in stock images. They have little relevance to the business itself and tell the visitor little about the business they’re looking at. I’d say if you’re going to use a slideshow it needs to feature you and/or your business partners doing whatever it is you do. For the images to work they need to be consistent and have some kind of story or theme to keep things together and relevant.

Even when the slideshow is done well, think about how it affects the viewing experience for the page. Personally I get irritated when I’m trying to read the text, but the slideshow keeps rotating in the corner of my eye. Even if I know I’ve seen all 4 images in the set, I keep glancing back from what I’m reading. The best slideshows combine the images with explanatory text, so the viewer is reading about the business while seeing images to back up the message. And yet you have to consider how long a potential client is willing to sit there looking at a spool of images, waiting for the next one to show up and not knowing how long you’re keeping them tied down for. The temptation is to click away – potentially to a different website.

If they do that, you better pray the next site is using a cheap video to get their message across. Nothing kills a potential sale like cheap video (oh OK, maybe cheap stock images come close).

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