A picture paints a thousand words, or so they say. People don’t like to read a lot online, so you need to keep your text short and to the point. Pictures help by providing illustration and breaking up the website so that it doesn’t look like just one big block of text. Here are a few pointers to follow when choosing which pictures to use and how to use them.
1. Make sure your pictures are relevant. Illustrate your service or product – don’t just add photos for the sake of it.
2. You must have the right to use the image. Copyright exists on the web just as it does in printed materials. Either take the pictures yourself, get them taken for you, or use public domain images. Wikimedia Commons is a good source for images – just type what you want into the search box.
3. Avoid using animations unless they illustrate something you are trying to demonstrate.Some people still don’t have access to a fast internet connection, and if the page doesn’t load quickly, they will probably leave your site.
4. Keep images to a reasonable size – it’s irritating waiting for images to load. Ideally, the file size should be under 100k. You can achieve this by first of all resizing the picture to the size it will appear on the page, rather than dragging it to size once you have placed it, and secondly, by using the ’save for web’ option in your image editing software.
5. Use thumbnails. If you need to show a big picture at high resolution (for example, if you want to show a piece of your artwork), put a thumbnail on the page and let users click through to the full sized picture. Warn them that it may be slow to load.
6. Use alt text. This is the text that ‘flies out’ when you hover over a picture. This has two functions: it helps people with screen readers, and it is also picked up by the search engines. In editing software such as Dreamweaver, you have the option to add this in the properties dialog box.
7. Clean up your images. Make sure they are sharp and clear with good contrast. If you don’t know how to do this, there are plenty of people who do (including Somerset Media!).
8. Avoid background images. They can be very slow to load, and some affect the readability of your site. Also, if people are printing your page, not everyone knows how to set the printer preferences so that the background is not printed.
9. Choose images that are different from those on other sites. If I had £1 for every business website I’ve visited which had a picture of two businessmen shaking hands, I wouldn’t ever need to work again!
10. Ask permission. If you find an image you really like on someone else’s site, drop them an email asking for permission to use it – many people will agree as long as you credit them. This has happened to me, and one of my photos is about to be used as the cover for a book (with credit to me inside)!
I hope you found these tips helpful!