What Kind of Photos Work on the Web?

Posted on 11/13/2010 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Eye tracking studies by Jakob Nielsen, a Web site consultant and author of a number of books about design and user interface, show that users pay close attention to photos and other images that contain relevant information but ignore fluffy pictures used to “jazz up” Web pages.

The key here is “relevant information.” Web users tend to completely ignore and jump over generic stock images that are designed to serve as decoration or make the customer “feel good.” Customers want to see pictures that give them real information about the product or service being offered. They want to see pictures of real people who work at the company, or company facilities, rather than clean, perfectly styled stock pictures. Nielsen’s new studies demonstrate that stock images on Web sites are completely ignored by users, add more clutter to the page and do not necessarily help from a business standpoint.

The good news is that the people who buy stock pictures haven’t learned this lesson. They continue to look for generic and cheap, and buy tons of that kind of imagery. Real pictures would have to be produced on assignment and cost money. Chances are graphic designers will never learn this lesson. Or, if they do, they will never be able to convince their bosses—the people overseeing the budgets—to pay what it would cost to produce pictures on assignment that would actually aid in the selling of their products. To accountants, one picture is the same as another, and cheaper is better.

On the other hand, on the outside chance that photo buyers will eventually figure out that they would probably sell more product if they showed the customers what they want to see rather that something that will waste the customer’s time and annoy them, it may be a good idea to take a look at the results of the eye tracking studies.

According to the New York Times, Mr. Nielsen advises those using the Web to hawk products or content to “invest in good photo shoots: a great photographer can add a fortune to your Web site’s business value.”    

Copyright © Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of www.selling-stock.com, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


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