As you know, visual content dominates over textual content. Most people, unfortunately, do not really like reading, especially reading online, so the decision to buy or accept an offer is directly related to the visual images that the user meets on the page. The situation is also aggravated by the intense influence of images on the user’s unconscious – even if an individual user turns out to be a great lover of reading with a strong verbal perception, s/he still cannot avoid those emotional changes that are caused (on a subconscious level) by visual content.
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It is noteworthy that the diverse testing that occurs in the eCommerce field shows not only how people make decisions and carry out conversion actions, guided by images, but also demonstrates a tendency, which is growing over time, to be guided by virtually only visual content. For example, a very characteristic feature of the human psyche is the phenomenon of a sense of possession when viewing colorful, bright and large images that we increasingly see in everyday life – from FullHD monitors to gigantic outdoor advertisements. All this continues to leave an imprint on our way of perceiving reality, suppressing verbal communication and accustoming us to communicate using images.
At the same time, the abundance of visual images that surround us generates a reverse defensive reaction, which manifests itself in the form of a kind of analogue of “banner blindness”, when monotonous and too often used visual content begins to fall out of the user’s attention zone. This is the reason for the difficulties associated with the low conversion of those resources, the developers of which were not too careful when selecting content.
Images that are prone to ignore include colorful pictures that have no direct connection with the offer and the semantic content of the page – such images are used purely as a “decoration” to fill empty space, as well as various stock photos with best-looking people and perfect situations. Many of these photos are worn to holes by comically frequent use, which causes additional conscious or unconscious irritation for users.
Paper content – Stock photography problems
One of the primary problems when using stock photos is the aforementioned effect of rejecting images that the user has seen before. It is characteristic that the user may not at all realize that he has already seen this picture on some other site, it is enough that his subconscious mind can identify the annoying image, forming a negative emotional background. It gets worse if the user experience is bad with the image you use on your site.
A distinctive feature of questionable landing pages and sites is the use of the most affordable, inexpensive and widespread stock photos. Scammers do not want to incur additional costs for their short-lived venture with unpredictable efficiency, and therefore resort to the most obvious and simple ways to fill pages with content. It is this moment that often plays a cruel joke with the owners of respectable resources using photos from the same sources used by the creators of fraudulent sites.
The lesser (but nevertheless capable of ruining your conversion) evil is the banal “banner blindness” in relation to faceless and impersonal stock photos. Perhaps this effect may well be called “stock blindness”, since it has long been pronounced and widespread. Decorative and devoid of individuality images that have no direct connection with the landing page fall out of the user’s attention zone.
Taken together, the listed problems pose a serious threat to your business, moreover, in especially severe cases, they can reduce conversion to unacceptable rates even with the most tempting and really beneficial offers for the user.
The conflict between the designer and the customer: stock and copyright photos
Quite a common situation when the customer wants to “pick up something” from the stock, and the designer, realizing the disastrous consequences of this step, tries to convince the customer to take the author’s photos. The customer, especially not very well versed in UX nuances, can be understood: stock photos are “beautiful” and relatively inexpensive, they can be easily and without fuss to get into use. Of course, recently the number of customers who understand the benefits of live, natural and “imperfect” photography is growing, but many still have to be convinced to stop using stock photography. At least from using them as they are. As a compromise, when the customer is categorically determined and you don’t want to lose him, you can resort to stock images, working to correct their shortcomings.
When and how can you use stock images?
Since the chaotic use of stock images “as is” leads to sad results, we should adhere to a number of simple rules of work, thanks to which we can get not only acceptable, but even quite outstanding results.
When purchasing or downloading a stock image, you probably want to know how often the photo is used by third-party sites. Also of great interest is information about who exactly uses this picture. This can be done using the wonderful TinEye service. To do this, you need to upload a picture or provide a link to it, after which TinEye will show the results with an indication of the number of duplicates found, the corresponding links and dates of use.
The next point is that you should use images consistent with your offer. It is necessary to give up abstract images that do not have a clear semantic load and have little to do with the essence of your page. Attempting to decorate as part of our business is guaranteed to lead you to ruin.
And, on the contrary, well-chosen stock images that correspond to the meaning and text content of your page can be very relevant and interesting, even despite all their “stock”.
Strange abstract images will not only fall out of the user’s attention zone, making the page lifeless and pale – they can also cause confusion for the user trying to understand why such a picture is here.
Modifying stock images
Skillful processing of stock photos can turn into a real creative process with interesting and unexpected results. When working with such images, we should clearly understand that we can do whatever we want with them, everything is limited only by our imagination and technical skills. In addition to using filters and cosmetic processing, we can remove unnecessary elements (cropping) or add the necessary ones by combining different pictures to obtain the desired image, experiment with the background and do a number of quite radical things that can change the original images beyond recognition.
We create visual content ourselves
However, the best results are demonstrated by copyright and even completely amateur photographs. DIY visual content creation is one of the keys to building the right image and contact with the user. The technical capabilities of a modern designer are truly unprecedented, and amateur shots taken with the latest smartphone cameras are often as good as professional photographs. Of course, a professional photographer has the skills that will help you get the best photos, but if for some reason you don’t have the ability or desire to hire a professional, then you should try taking pictures yourself.
In addition to taking pictures with your own hands using amateur technology, be it a smartphone or a camera, you can use material from mobile stocks – a kind of analogue of the usual professional photo banks. On such resources, you can find many high-quality and original works, devoid of that senseless and meaningless gloss, because of which the use of typical stock photos has become bad manners.
Among mobile photo stocks, Clashot is worth noting, which is one of the most popular services that provide users with the opportunity to sell photos taken with a mobile phone. Clashot was launched as a third-party service DepositPhotos and, unlike the main resource, it does not publish pictures taken with a camera. You can upload photos to the site only from a smartphone using applications for iOS or Android.
Another popular mobile stock, Foap, features advanced user moderation, which filters out bad or worthless images during the posting process. And just like on Clashot, users track images that were not taken with a smartphone camera – thus, it will not be possible to cheat and upload professional studio photos.
Thanks to this concept, the content of mobile photo stocks not only remains alive and real, but in addition has artistic value. Also, do not forget about Instagram, where you can also find many original images that can satisfy design needs.
Real people vs. stock people
Another important aspect of filling a page with visual content, which many still continue to neglect. People love real people and dislike the ideal and artificial ones that are free from flaws, with which the usual drains abound. An interesting parallel can be drawn here – if on product sites, users want to see large, detailed and, if I may say so, juicy images of the desired object (activating the very illusion of possession, which we mentioned at the beginning of the article and which has a beneficial effect on conversion rates ), then on more personalized resources associated with the services of professionals or any team of people, users really want to look at real people – the very ones with whom they have to deal. It doesn’t matter that the appearance of these people may be far from the standards of beauty and sometimes not very attractive – the feeling of the presence of a real person outweighs any possible primary antipathy associated with appearance.
An additional factor, which we also mentioned, is the incredible similarity between the various stock “work teams” and “call center operators”, at best boring and at worst annoying.
In this regard, we would like to mention another study by Jacob Nielsen, one of the conclusions of which sounds like “People Photos = Good (If They’re Real People)” – “Photos of people are good. In the event that these people are real ”. While testing the FreshBooksAboutFreshBooks page, the experiment authors used eye-tracking to analyze user reactions to a really long page with photos and short bios of all project participants. Curiously, despite the seemingly tedious listing of more than a dozen employees, users spent 10% more time looking at photos than reading biographies, which took up 316% more space than the pictures themselves. It is no less remarkable that almost every time the user watched such a long page to the end.
Posting photos of your team members on the page is a great idea, thanks to which you can significantly increase user confidence in your company. At the same time, it is not at all necessary to create the same large pages listing everyone who in any way relates to your team, since this idea is quite specific and experimental, a much more reliable way is to present to the visitor those employees who are key in the project and those who will interact directly with the user.
All this is relevant not only for eCommerce resources, but also for completely non-commercial projects. Even if your goal is not to get vital conversion rates, you still need to make sure that the user sees a logical, coherent and lively page without impersonal and unnecessary abstractions.
Briefly about image size
When posting product images on the site, do not forget that users love really large photos. However, often gigantic images are completely inappropriate, since the structure of the page (for example, a page with 10, 50 or more positions) does not imply the use of large images, and besides, large images in some cases can irritate the user, distracting him from studying important text information about the product. As a compromise, click-to-enlarge images should be used. It will be especially great if in the enlarged image mode the user can flip through all the available pictures showing the product from different angles. Also, if possible, a rather useful tool for the user is the ability to view the product in 3D. A highly enlarged picture of the desired thing, which can be rotated in every possible way – what could be more pleasant for an interested potential buyer?
When embedding enlarging images on a page, one important point should be taken into account – the image must really grow significantly. A snapshot that enlarges by 20-30% when clicked can irritate the user and cause a sense of disappointment, which is dangerous for conversion.
The main prerequisite for competently working with visual content is understanding that it plays a key role in ensuring high conversion rates. This is evidenced by both numerous studies and professional experience. When faced with a controversial and ambiguous task, try to conduct A \ B testing, because often it is split tests that open new horizons in understanding user reactions and how to work with them.