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Are your Website Images Your Greatest Asset or Your Achilles Heel?

by Tim Rimington | February 1, 2012

A successful website is not a product of its design per se, but instead, it's a product of its quality of content. An eye-catching design will only go so far in propping up poor content, so where do you draw the line with the dollars invested in your website's design, and that invested in building amazing content?

I'm a firm believer that the “wow” factor is provided by a website's content, starting with its images. However, images can be a website's greatest asset but they can also be its Achilles Heel.

Let's focus on the design/makeover stage of a website; we'll address page content in a moment.

It's not uncommon for web designers to offer stock imagery to represent aspects of your business. One often-used image that springs to mind is the middle-aged man wearing glasses and smiling with his middle-aged wife as his young children look on, all sporting broad smiles. I laughed out loud when I saw this particular image on a chemist advertising banner last week – the same image used on numerous websites across different industries. Or how about the 3D human figure used on anything from real estate to health care. I've seen entire brands resting on that image even though it's now commonly used across a variety of industries! So much for building a brand that other people use! Get creative, buy rarely-used images or better still, commission a pro to take photos unique to your business, products or services.

The point is, stock images can sometimes drag a website down because they're too generic. If you're going to employ stock images for, say, your Home page/banner don't choose images simply because they "look good". Remember: communicate, don't decorate!

I've always asserted that a professional photographer is a wise investment and, to be brutally frank, it demonstrates to me that a business is serious about their marketing efforts – and more likely to be serious about me, the customer. They're "ticking the boxes".

The design stage of a website should never be a rushed affair. It should be carefully considered and should always draw advice and opinions from varying experts (and by “experts” I mean marketing experts, not a friend working in IT or your partner's Microsoft-certified work colleague). IT is not marketing. Seek advice from marketing professionals, and if you're on a mega-tight budget do your research from specialist marketing websites. They're a dime a dozen if you look hard enough. A wealth of information awaits.

I say this often, if you don't wear a professional look your competitors will. So that means calling that professional photographer again or learning how to DIY so that the results are near the same (but DIY takes practice - lots of it, so if you're on a time constraint forget a DIY studio and jump to a professional who's ready to hit the ground running).

If your page content images are approached with a “she'll be right, mate” attitude, you may as well stop there. Poor web page or shop product page images will send customers packing. And those that do stick around will be few and far between. Maximise your opportunity – do not cut corners when it comes to images! One image is not enough – each product needs at least 3 images to help draw a customer “into” the product.

Remember that you can tell a good song if it can be played on a single guitar or piano. If the song is rubbish, that'll become obvious soon enough. But you don't require a full ensemble to turn a great song into an amazing one – great songs stand on their own – and so do quality, professional web images. A blank canvas is sufficient if your page content is amazing. If you also happen to have a great web design sitting behind your amazing content then you'll deliver a masterpiece! But it's the quality of the “song” that will do all the talking. Content should be your priority, before, during and long after your website build.

For text-based content refer to this article about why Killer Website Text is crucial to your online sales and sales leads.

Chris Sutton wrote an article earlier this month with his observations on Product Photography in Online Stores.

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