Article / Design Strategy / Graphic Design / Photography

How the right image can get your content noticed

There is a vast amount of information on the internet. At the beginning of 2020, there were 1.74 billion websites and rising, and that’s not considering blog pages and social media accounts.

That’s a lot of pages to compete with, and the chances of getting your website found without having a marketing plan in place are, to say the least, extremely slim.

You might feel disheartened by that. But I think that it just highlights how important it is to do everything you possibly can to get your online content noticed. And a huge part of that is creating the right look – including branding and images – to make sure that when you are found, people will be interested enough to want to read what you have to say.

I spend a lot of my time thinking about how to use images online. I look at different types of image; photography, artwork, gifs/animated images…. I spend a lot of time testing things out, seeing how they work on the screen, gauging audience response. And I’ve spent a lot of years working out what works and what doesn’t.

Why images are important

You might ask why you need images as part of your online content at all. What if you’re a car mechanic, or a manufacturer? Surely these kinds of industries don’t require images on their websites, right?

OK, well think about this; if you’re online, looking for a specific type of company, where does your brain stop you scrolling – on the page filled with text, or the one with the high-quality images?

We have it hardwired in us to respond to visual prompts. So we automatically want to see images – it’s what our brains seek out first, in order to make sense of the page, and learn what it is about.

Then, if we’re pleased with what we see, we start reading.

Statistics say that online content with images get 94% more views than those without – that’s almost double. For that reason alone, I think it’s worth putting some thought into.

What type of images?

The main thing to remember is that all images need to compliment the content they appear alongside. The purpose should be to draw the person in and compel them to read your content.

Bear in mind that nowadays, most people will have access to smartphones, and so for many of them, this is how they will see your web content. Make sure that the images you choose look good on both monitors and phone screens.

You’ll also want to think about your overall branding – every image you use, whether that’s in the form of photographs or graphics, need to tie in with the rest of your branding. Consider colours, composition, and style, and make sure that everything follows the same theme.

The images you use should be the correct resolution – people can see poor quality a mile off, and if your images look shoddy, then so will the rest of your site.

The personal touch

There’s an old cliché that people buy from people – and it’s true. The most clickable images are always those which show a personal element to your business. That might be candid images of the work that you do, a sneak peek of your office or workspace, or even a short video of you giving some insight into a process that you could share with people.

Tell a story; show people who you are, and what they can expect if they hire you or buy from you. Let them see how you work, and some of the behind the scenes stuff you do in order to provide the service that you do.

How website images feed social media

The images you use on your website also dictate largely how you use your social media platforms. As well as building an audience via social, your social media platforms should also encourage people onto your website.

Changes in algorithms over the past couple of years means that reach has dropped significantly, so anything you can do to encourage “meaningful interactions” (their words, not mine) will increase the number of people who see your posts.

Using well thought out images can be a way to get people to read your posts, and comment on them, giving you more reach, and therefore lead more people to your website.

Graphic Design / Photography / Project Highlight

Case Study: Joe Seager – Yesteryear Album Sleeve

Now and then, I get a request for a project that really excites me. Something that’s so different than anything I’ve worked on recently that I simply cannot say no. I’d like to share with you how my last project came about, and how I worked with musician Joe Seager to create his latest album cover.

Joe’s original brief was to show a reference to life challenges faced, overcoming difficulties in the past as well as happy memories and showing hope for the future. This was to give a taste of some of the subjects he was communicating in his songs, creating a ‘mood’ to reflect the story of the album.

This project needed to be handled quite differently to most of the other stuff I work on – when I’m working for a brand, for example, I would need to delve into the person behind it, the core values, the image they need to portray, and the customer demographic. In this instance, I wasn’t selling a brand, or a company; this needed to represent the product, and the music itself. So the approach I took had to be different, too.

After speaking to Joe at length about his own ideas, and getting some background on his music, I listened to the album, making notes of words and phrases that came to mind. Once I had these, I could begin drafting out some ideas, putting together images, colours etc.

Working with Joe, we talked through some of these, and I asked him to provide me with some of his own images and photographs; memorable moments, favourite toy from childhood, favourite photo, anything which brought a special memory.

These things all came together as a kind of portrait to which I can add my design elements, and this, for me, is where the real fun begins.

Collection of starter images

The design process

Now for a disclaimer: I’ve worked with Joe before, and have created his previous album and singles covers, so I’m aware of the kind of designs Joe likes, and I’ve got a good feel for how I can use my designs to compliment Joe’s musical style.

For this design, I wanted to make sure that I used a different style from his last album, because although the genre is the same, this one had a completely different ‘mood’, and I felt it was important to encapsulate that. I wanted his fans to be able to pick it up and know instantly the kind of thing they would be listening to. Like a book, every album tells its own story.

From our conversations, we came to the idea of creating a kind of dream sequence using the images he had chosen, travelling through important events from his life in sepia tones, kind of like a montage of memories.

By using muted colours and transparent layers, I was able to highlight these images, while using the background to bring in more subtle layers to show other elements, such as the piano keys and the written notes etc.

I hadn’t really got a firm idea about the colours at this point – I knew I wanted them to be quite subtle, but I hadn’t made any decisions about how to use colour overlays. But sometimes, once everything is in place and you start the process of playing with the design, the decision is almost made for you, and that’s what happened in this instance.

The finished design

I think we achieved the result we wanted very well – from the original concept, we managed to encapsulate the style of the music, and tell the story of the album.

It always works really well when you are able to work with a client who has their own ideas of what they want to achieve, yet trusts you to deliver without difficulty, and that’s how it was with Joe. This album cover was a result of designer and client working together, from a clear brief, and willing to communicate and contribute ideas throughout the whole project.

'Run With It' Single Sleeve
'In Reverie' Single Sleeve
'Yesteryear' Single Sleeve
Photography / Web Design

Why you should be using professional images for your website

Used effectively, images can do much more than make your work look pretty. They can help gain more traffic, and therefore more conversions. So it’s vitally important that the images you choose for your website are of the very best quality. In this article, I’d like to share with you some tips and advice on what works, and what doesn’t, when it comes to placing images on your website.

Why do I need images on my website at all?

As humans, we are hard wired to respond to visual stimuli. Without even realising, our brains process the images we see on screen, and then make the decision based on that image, whether or not we want to read the text. So having a website that’s purely text, with little or no imagery, means that our visitors will be much more likely to ignore the text and click away in search of something more stimulating.

This is especially important to remember if you’re an e-commerce business – people will make their decisions based on what your products look like, before they even read the description or check the price. And if your images don’t appeal to them, or spark a need in them, they simply will not buy.

Emotional response

Your website is your biggest sales tool. And it’s worth remembering that all sales are based on emotion. Therefore, every piece of content on your site should be able to appeal to your customers emotions, in order for them to trust you and buy from you.

The images you use are a big part of this. When you select the images for your website, ask yourself what story it is telling, and how that story will make your customers feel.

For some industries, that might be harder than others. For example – what if you’re selling access platforms, or manufacturing computer components?

Well, the key in these kinds of products is to gloss over the actual process of manufacture, and instead think about the end product, and how it will aid your customers. Who will you customers be? And what will they gain from using or buying your product? Those are the images to focus on. People actually using your end product, and being satisfied with the results they bring.

Using images can help you to make your customers feel – and create a desire for them to buy. They’re shouldn’t just be there to look pretty, as with every part of your online marketing, they should be doing a job, working towards turning your browsers into leads.

Good photography

I’m going to say something rather controversial here; when it comes to taking photographs for your website, mobile phones can be the enemy. Yes, I understand that phones right now have fantastic cameras, and are capable of taking high quality images – but that doesn’t make you a photographer, there’s much more to consider than just whipping out your phone and shooting a few product images. If you take photos in this way, they will simply not be professional enough to use on your website.

Of course, they do have their place – they can be great for candid shots for your social media, in telling your story on Facebook or Twitter, and vital for platforms such as Instagram. In these areas – knock yourself out! You should absolutely be taking advantage of your phone’s technology for that.

But if you want to make an impression with your website, put your phone away. It really won’t benefit you.

Image subject

If you’re sourcing your own images, taking them yourself, or hiring a photographer to do it for you, it’s worth spending some time thinking about the subject of the image. Whichever option you choose, you will likely need some sort of monetary outlay, whether that’s for equipment, stock image purchase, or professional photography costs, so getting it absolutely right is essential.

If you are a service-based business, your needs will be very different than if you’re selling actual products, as you’ll have to be more imaginative in the type of image you are using. A music teacher, for example, might want to use images portraying the teaching process, and include photographs or videos of him and his students in a lesson. Whereas a specialist guitar shop (just to keep to a theme here!) would want great quality images of the instruments they are selling.

Your own images

If you know your way around a camera, or know someone who does, then you might feel confident in taking them images yourself – but it’s important that you learn the correct techniques for photographing your products, as you could potentially damage your whole brand if you get it wrong.

Some things to consider are:

  • Choosing the right subject to shoot
  • Getting the background right
  • Setting up lighting to make the best of your subject
  • Image editing

You will also need to make sure that your images are consistent throughout the site, as following a basic theme will help your website flow.

Stock images

If you’re not looking for product images, and are not in a position to take them yourself or hire a photographer, you could think about using stock images. As a rule, stock images are useful, but if you get it wrong, they can look pretty awful. But, used right, they can work for some types of industry very well, so don’t dismiss them altogether.

Bear in mind that if you are going down the stock route, you can either choose a free site, or a subscription site. If your website is image-heavy, you might benefit by paying for a better choice of high-quality images. And beware of using images which have been heavily used elsewhere – your readers will notice!

A designer’s view

As a graphic designer, the subject of images comes up a lot in my work. It’s often a big part of a branding project, and feature heavily in many websites, as well as printed brochures and material. I try to advise my clients to the best of my ability on how and where to use photographs (although I don’t always get listened to!), and would be happy to chat to you about your particular needs, including the types of photographs you should be using, and the best way to source them. Please feel free to talk to me if you’re not sure which direction to take.

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