8 April 2015

The importance of images

Man holding gapes

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Josh Carson

For many years images were seen as fillers. Small images would help designers break up screeds of text, and those of you who remember dial-up will also remember the frustration of waiting for image heavy pages to load. With the advent of superfast broadband, increased image compression capabilities and advances in current web design trends, the role of images on websites is becoming increasingly important. With Internet speed no longer an issue, web designers across the world are finally turning to photographs, graphics or even videos to form the focal point of websites.

For years now, designers have focused on creating ‘hero’ elements. These hero banners form a focal point for a page when you land on it, whether that’s a call to action, an image or a function. It is common to be greeted by beautiful, full screen images as you land on a page for the first time. Coupled with the adaptation of typography, these hero elements define how your website or company is perceived and leave a lasting first impression. With this in mind, it is becoming imperative that your site has high quality images.

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This means several things. Firstly, the images should be fit for purpose and compliment the content. The way design is going the amount of text that is presented on a site at any one time is constantly decreasing, in preference of easy to digest snippets with links to additional information. This means that images must be engaging and encourage users to find out more – taking them deeper into your site. These images must tie into the message of the site in an engaging way in order to achieve this.

Secondly, images must be high resolution and scale appropriately. With 80% of all online adults now using smartphones, and 47% using tablets, images now need to look fetching on a number of devices. To achieve this, it is important to ensure that the main subject is in the middle of the image and, if possible, minimise content around the subject. Take a photograph of a coffee cup, for example. Say the cup is on a table – you would want the cup to be placed in the centre, with a table or maybe some people in the background. If you instead chose to have a person holding the cup, taking up most of the photograph, scaling the photograph on different devices could mean clipping the person’s head and produce an out of place image on certain devices. Maintaining a clear, centralised focus to an image, unencumbered by other complicated elements, will help ensure that your images scales effectively.


With images taking up lots of space on websites now, designers have taken to overlaying text onto images, which can often lead to illegible text. To get around this designers often darken images so that text pops out, drawing attention to the statement or call to action. The downside to this is that the image content is less visible. To minimise the impact of this, images selected in this instance should be un-complicated and have a very clear subject. Typically I aim for 50% opacity on a black overlay over a bright image, however if the image is naturally dark I may opt for a much lighter overlay, so as to not lose too much image clarity.

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Using high quality images on your website can have a huge impact on how people interact with your content. Studies show that tweets (ok, not your website, but still relevant) with images attract 150% more interaction than those without. People are naturally drawn to quality images!

Ok, so you get that you need to use high quality images. So how do you go about finding them?! There are loads of high quality stock images sites around (see list below). These are a great way to quickly improve your site’s appearance, however make sure to check the license agreement to ensure you able to use them for commercial gain. Whilst stock photos are great, if you can afford it, hiring a photographer to capture specific images relating to your content, product/service and message is advised. These images will draw attention to your content and act as an invaluable sales tool. What’s great is that this will provide you with a bank of images to use on social media platforms to draw potential users to your site. A few useful sites for stock images: