Adding the right images to your engagement website (so people don’t ignore them!)
Monday, December 13th, 2010

Think generic stock images help you “jazz up” your website?  In fact, users don’t even notice them…

We’ve all seen generic or stock images on websites.  The teamwork image of joined hands; the cheerful executive pumping his or her fist while using a laptop; business people embracing each other like they’ve just won the lottery.  These types or stock or generic photos are often added to websites to “jazz them up” or make them more user friendly.  But do they actually work?

According to research by web usability guru, Jakob Nielson, users don’t even notice them.  Based on eyetracking studies, he has examined how people view and interact visually with web pages.  Here are some of his recent findings:

  • Posed stock images of “generic” people or models are almost completely ignored by users
  • Instead, users are focused on finding the text content they are looking for
  • Photos can add to websites when they are of “real people” like employees or participants

This is important to know when designing your next online public engagement website.  It should be designed with the user participant at the centre, allowing them to access the content information they are looking for, and to take part, as simply as possible.

Any photos on the site should be of real people – like the head of the host organization, staff involved, or even of some actual participants who have taken part in the engagement.  These images will be more genuine and effective if finished without glossy effects that can easily make it seem generic.

However, engagement sites should still be content focused.  Participants want to quickly learn about the project, read how their contribution will be used, and to take part.  And that’s the true objective for the site and process.

P.S. I know you’ve probably paid more attention to the generic team image on this page, but according to Nielson’s research, only because I’ve pointed it out!

– Ellis Westwood –

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