When visiting a small business website, people naturally gravitate first towards color and imagery. These elements, more than the amount or quality of text provided, will influence their all-important first impression. A harmonious blend of images, color, and placement of content always trumps a website that looks jumbled, haphazardly composed or thrown together on the fly.
Here are tips for selecting images that demonstrate a level of professionalism and a sense of your individual brand:
Quality counts. Grainy and poorly reproduced photographs on a small business website can be an instant deal-killer. Select only high-definition images, while also making sure they come in small file sizes. Don’t make any image larger than it has to be, in order to avoid distortion.
Strive for originality. Consumers are “image-savvy,” meaning they know a stock photo when they see one. This doesn’t mean stock photos can’t be used on your website, only that relying on the most obvious images (a smiling “customer” holding up a product in a box, for example) comes across as tired and unimaginative—and offers no emotional impact to the viewer. Finding just the right (and unexpected) stock photo will likely cost a little more, but it’s always more effective. Better yet, hire a professional photographer and come up with one-of-a-kind imagery perfectly suited to your product or service.
Evoke an emotional response. Emotion often plays a part in the purchasing process. Images that provoke a favorable response guide viewers towards making the decision to purchase. Just think of a photograph of someone who looks clearly pleased to be using a product or service. This reinforces the prospective customer’s desire to feel equally positive about their own purchasing choice.
Feature people who resemble your target audience. A website aimed at teenage skateboarding fanatics should obviously avoid using images of infants or senior citizens. On the other hand, a planned community website works best with photographs of cheerful, active retirees. People want to see themselves reflected in the happy, smiling faces they encounter online.
Offer candid images of your team. The more visitors to your site feel like they “know” your business, the more inclined they’ll be to purchase your product or service. One way to differentiate your business from the competition is by featuring professional photographs of employees “behind the scenes” or taking part in an event benefiting the public. Also, remember to include friendly-looking headshots of your top executives on your “About Us” page.
Choose images that reinforce your brand. Every business has its own unique look and feel—its brand. The images selected for the website should be consistent with that brand. An upscale spa, for example, should feature guests enjoying aspects of the spa experience in imagery that conveys tranquility and the benefits of physical rejuvenation.
In addition to the importance of selecting just the right images for your site, keep these tips in mind:
Be consistent with images. Collectively all the images on your website should tell a story. Color, cropping, filters, style, and orientation should all be taken into consideration. Will the website feature all black & white photos or only illustrations? Having consistent photo style helps build brand recognition.
Crop images for greater impact. Many “perfect” photographs can be enhanced even more by a careful cropping. There’s often a lot of wasted space around the edges of a photograph. Getting rid of that empty space helps draw the visitor’s eye precisely where you want it to go.
Don’t overdo it. When adding images to your different web pages, go by the principle of “less is more.” People don’t want to be bombarded by photographs when they visit a site; the experience is confusing, disorienting, and generates a negative reaction. Always strive for a healthy balance of content and imagery.
If you’re building a new website or updating an existing site, make selection of the right images part of the initial strategy. Images carry too much potential value to be left to the last minute.