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
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