Images pack a punch. The visual aspects of web design have the power to ignite emotion and create a compelling and memorable brand experience. The right website imagery brings dynamic expression to a page and has the unique ability to catch and hold visitors’ attention.
As the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Images communicate more easily than words. And people absorb information from images more quickly than from text. That said, research verifies that people think in both words and images. Good website design should intentionally integrate both ways of thinking for optimal communication.
We hope the insight provided below will benefit you in two ways. First, you’ll have a better understanding of how digital agencies approach imagery for websites. Second, we hope this is helpful for internal marketing teams considering imagery solutions for the wide variety of marketing communications.
Imagery Sources for Web Design
If at all possible, a web design agency will create unique imagery with original photographs and professional graphic design. While manipulation and creative editing of stock photography is most often used by agencies to create a distinctive brand experience, original photography and illustrations is sometimes a better option to set your brand apart because it injects authenticity and uniqueness that cannot be replicated.
As an example, our client Kiefer Aquatics chose to invest in a photoshoot for key imagery that could capture and connect with their consumer base of young competitive athletes wearing Kiefer-branded swimwear. Through Kiefer’s relationships with high school swim teams and aquatic facilities, they were able to secure real-life young athletes for our shoot. This provided settings that captured the camaraderie among real-life teammates that is a trait of the brand. And because website design was part of a total rebranding initiative, the photography was also able to be used across a variety of communications which helped to justify the cost.
A photoshoot also made sense for Particle Technology Labs. The company is a leader in the niche industry of particle testing. Original photography and videography was used to set them apart by showcasing the actual lab. Customers can see the size and quality of the facility “first-hand” as well as actual chemists doing testing.
Royalty-Free Stock Images
In many situations, the more affordable option of stock photography is sufficient. It’s often surprising what can be found on websites such as Shutterstock or iStock, for example. We have found images for websites for such seemingly hard to find photos. For instance, Verve Marketing Group designed a website for an association of gastroenterology nurses. We found royalty-free stock images of patient procedures being conducted that were an excellent fit for the association’s website.
With over 24 million static and video images available on Shutterstock, it’s important to know how to search. While typing in general keywords can be productive, designers also often imagine specific scenarios and then use filters to quickly narrow options and find just the right image.
Stock imagery, however, also has some downsides to consider:
1. Overused Photos
One problem with stock photography is that many of the best images, especially the inexpensive or free ones, are ubiquitous. Web design agencies typically do not work with free image sites for websites for this reason. In general, the higher the price of the stock image, the higher the quality and uniqueness.
This is especially common for images associated with a particular industry, which happens when you shop for photos by topic. If the image is key – such as the main image on a site’s home page – it’s important to customize images in particular that include people. The “best” images in narrow industries may likely be used by others. You do not want to take the risk that the same images have been seen on competitors’ sites and are connected with another brand.
2. Generic Feel
The more common “problem” with stock images is that they look “stock.” In particular, overly happy people in staged scenarios signal a smaller organization and somewhat implicitly less-than-the-best products and services. Photography contributors to stock sites want their photos to be used in as many contexts as possible. A popular image generates more income than one that only a few people download, so contributors strive to create photos appropriate for general use. All too often, they succeed by producing flat, generic-looking images.
In between unique, brand-specific photographs and basic stock fodder are licensed images. These are stock photos, but they are only available with purchased licensing, which restricts the usage of the photographs in various ways, greatly reducing the overuse issues of stock photography.
Licensing costs and rights vary by artist and the company issuing the license. Generally, the higher the price, the more exclusive the user’s rights to the image will be. Licensed imagery is significantly more expensive than standard royalty-free images.
How Web Agencies Create Unique Imagery on a Budget
The best of all worlds for most situations is to create original graphics from royalty-free stock photography. Designers alter royalty-free stock images in ways that make it distinctive such as through unique cropping, applying color overlays and filters, or combining the initial picture with other images can all make something fresh and unique out of the ordinary.
Imagery is important because it allows the human mind to make associations and build familiarity with a brand or a product line. Effective branding uses appropriate images and graphics to bring your products and information together into a cohesive brand look. Images are an essential design element.
Effective web design starts with objectives and many components go into creating a user-friendly site that delivers – information architecture, copywriting, design, programming and search engine optimization to name some important skill sets. But we hope this has been helpful on the important aspect of imagery, a key element of your website’s overall brand look and feel. Verve Marketing Group focuses both on the strategic, content, and metrics side of web design and development as well as the feelings evoked through the use of color and imagery.