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.

Design Strategy / SEO / Web Design

Reasons why you should update your website

Almost all business is done, at least in part, online these days. When people are in the market for a new product or service, it’s highly likely that the first place they will turn is the internet. They will use Google, or they will consult their social media platforms for reviews and advice.

For this reason, I always stress to my clients that getting their website right is vitally important. Nowadays, there are so many free sites that you can use to DIY a website, it makes the design process seem perhaps a little too simple. But I believe that if you want to stand out and be noticed, there are elements that need to be considered, that a standard, free template, won’t provide.

But I’m not going to talk too much about that here. What I am going to talk about is, going back to my original point, why it’s so important to keep your website updated, and relevant.

A large part of my work, whether I’m doing a complete rebrand, working with a start-up business, or just looking at improving a company’s online image, is website design. It’s often one of the first things a client will want to discuss, because a website forms such a big part of the marketing strategy.

But it always amazes me how some businesses put so little thought into their website. There tends to be a thought process that once the website is up and live, it will just sit there and attract loads of new customers. But it really doesn’t work that way.

Websites are no longer just ‘static’

Since the introduction of social media, the way businesses and consumers use websites has drastically changed. They’re no longer just a ‘shop window’ for people to view your products and services. They are now much more interactive. Everything online is linked – we have easy access to social platforms, blogging, video, and so much more. And people expect to see elements of that across your website.

If you think about how people use the internet now, compared to even just ten years ago, the technology alone has completely changed. We are no longer tied to a desktop in order to consume online content. We can use our smartphones and tablets, which are with us most of the time. And this means that we can, and do, access our online world from wherever we are.

Because of this, online content has become much more fleeting. People need to be kept engaged, and are much less likely to spend so much time on each page or element they see on-screen. By nature, they flit between pages more quickly, because there is much more content to get through.

So unless your website has enough fresh content to grab and keep their attention, they’re just going to bounce, and read something else.

Google Ranking

Something that I find is often overlooked by businesses is Google ranking. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve launched a new website as part of a rebrand, only for the business owner to come back to me a few weeks later to ask why they’re not appearing on the first page of Google.

What they fail to understand is that maintaining that website takes work from them, after the site goes live. If you just let it sit there, it won’t do a thing.

Google favours sites which consistently publish fresh content. That can be in the form of blogs, new product information, image updates, news sites, events calendars, and inbound links via social media etc.

To get on that front page, a company needs to be constantly reviewing and updating the right elements of their website.

Return visits

As well as enticing new visitors to your site, you’ll also want people to want to come back. Give them a reason to want to do that. If your site never has anything new to offer, people are only likely to visit once, in order to get the information they need.

Return visitors are important to your business, and your website needs to have something fresh and new for them to see when they do.

Hopefully, this article has served to inspire you to look at your own website. Does it pull in new customers for you? Does it look good enough? How could you improve it?

If you’d like to chat through some ideas for your website, or another part of your corporate branding, we’re happy to help.

Design Strategy / Web Design

Web design doesn’t end with going live

My work at the Severn Agency sees me dealing with a lot of businesses who need me to create branding for them, and one big part of that is getting their website built, starting with the initial design and layout, bringing in their branding to make sure that it all ties in and looks good. A lot of time is spent on this element, because ultimately, a company’s website is where all of the other online stuff leads to – things like social media, email campaigns, and even printed material, all eventually lead customers to a website, so getting it spot on is essential.

I’ve said it before – the online world changes, evolves, advances at a rapid rate. Even in the last 5 years, the design and function of websites and social media are very different to what they were. And businesses need to understand that websites are no longer those static, non-moving pages they once were. They need to be constantly updated, and interactive.

SEO Friendly web design

In designing a website, one of the main contributing factors is that of SEO. Of course, from a design perspective, it’s vital that the site looks professional, and includes all the elements needed to attract and keep visitors on it for as long as possible, and decrease bounce rates (how quickly a visitor leaves the site altogether).

In order to keep those bounce rates low, and to maintain the interest of our visitors, we cannot simply rely on the initial design and static content of the site – although this is just as important to get right.

These days, there is a huge emphasis on interaction, and I think that this is the key to a good website, and sadly, one which many businesses fail to understand.

In order to succeed, a website has to remain fresh and current. Perhaps that is why blogging has become one of the most dominant forms of web content – people will return to read updated content in a niche that they have an interest in, much like a newspaper or magazine.

So from an SEO perspective, having current content such as this, will be favoured by search engines, enabling your site to be found more easily.

Social integration

Even before your website is at the design stage, it’s really worth thinking about how you’re going to drive traffic to it – like I said before, no-one is going to ‘fall upon’ your website unless you work on driving them to it.

It’s important that your branding includes all of your social media platforms, because it’s from here that people will initially get to know you. Integrating your social media with your website, writing regular content such as blogs or newsfeeds, and creating newsletters and emails are all part of the web design process, and are all important in getting your brand noticed.

I can’t tell you how often I’m asked to design a website, where the client hasn’t considered any of this – they simply want a website that will sit there and bring in the customers. They don’t consider all of the work that needs to go into it after it goes live.

Where design fits in with SEO

When we think about SEO, we consider things such as keywords, meta tags, titles and names – but design can do so much to help your rankings too.

For example, when you are using images for your website, whether they are product photographs, images to accompany blog posts, or any images which are used to illustrate your website, it’s important to consider that large images which ‘drag down’ the loading time of your site will have a negative impact on your search ranking. Therefore, having images of the correct size is vital.

Also, make sure that you are placing written tags within the ‘alt text’ section, which will also be considered for SEO reasons. Search engines will look for correlation between the images you use and the written content on the page.

All of this is just scratching the surface – there is much more that goes in to creating and maintaining an SEO friendly website. If you are in the process of updating your own business website, and you’d like to learn more about driving traffic, implementing new design elements, or overall branding, please feel free to contact us at the Severn Agency – we’d be happy to offer advice.