Stock Photographs!Where would website design be without them? Some would say, at a place far better than it currently is right now; the image mediocrity that is prevalent in many websites would have gone down. People sitting on the other side of the fence say it’s not fair to berate stock photographs because they are only as good or bad as the website designers or bloggers who choose them for their pages.
As a web designer, I have come across plenty of websites that are suffering because of the kind of stock images used on them. The problem doesn’t just lie in the choice of stock photography but includes plenty of other reasons as well. I decided to study these sites and find out why the photographs used on them were not working.My evaluation and analysis allowed me to identify a list of reasons that can be applied to any website whose popularity is taking a beating because of the quality of stock photographs used:
Commonly Used images
I have seen a picture of a woman with a thousand watt smile and with the head phones on, on many websites who want to show a customer service representative. Ditto for a plant growing out of lump of mud in palms, or a man drawing charts on a glass with a marker. I am sure you have come across plenty of stock photographs used across diverse websites, too. Now I am willing to believe some “powerful quality” about these images persuaded different web designers to zero in on the same pictures to use on their sites. But, look at it from the user’s point of view. If they keep coming across the same images on different websites, they aren’t going to look at the images and the sites with any degree of credibility. That’s going to take your website down like nothing else can.
I see images being used on web pages that have no relevance to the purpose or objective of the web page. Some of the images used are so off track that they are downright funny. But, there is another impression that such images propagate and that is the owners of the website have taken their target audience for granted.
Designers choose irrelevant images for one of two reasons 1. They haven’t much sense 2. They were lazy. Usually it’s latter rather than the former. Plain laziness results in the choice of images whose use doesn’t make much sense on website pages.
Lack of Emotion
The best images draw a range of emotions out of the viewer. Many of the decisions that we make in our daily lives are emotional in nature, especially purchase decisions. Therefore, images used on websites must be able to connect at an emotional level with the website visitors. If they don’t, your website doesn’t work. It’s a simple enough arithmetic. So, the stock photography you choose for the site must have emotional significance. Don’t choose it for the heck of it. Your images shouldn’t come across as dead beat, but something that are alive and which are talking to website visitors in a visual language. If the stock photographs on your site, are found wanting for emotion, they will take your site down.
You might have chosen a stock image, but it doesn’t need to look like one. If you haven’t changed the contours of your image, and tried to make it a part of the overall design of your web page, it’s not going to work. Give your creativity a free run and see how you can use your expertise in various web design technologies to turn the photo on its head and improve its style quotient. You now have ways and means to enhance the quality of your image so that it looks better than it actually is. So make use of them. If you don’t, you are compromising on the interest generated in your site.
Images That Just Don’t InterestAnyone
Some designers get caught up in using stock photographs that are about real people. I know there is a school of thought that says pictures of real people on a site, improve its credibility. That’s true enough in its way, but what if you don’t get your hands on images that are not very commonly used. What do you do then? Do you compromise or think differently? Of course, you must think differently and try to look for some other images, not necessarily of people, but which perfectly fit into your website’s paradigm. Yes, you are still using stock images, but you are taking a different route. At times, this is what pays the best dividends.
Just the Wrong Kind of Attitude
If you are a designer, I am sure you have been caught in a situation wherein the client wants only the best images used on his site, but doesn’t have the budget earmarked for buying high quality stock photographs. In such cases, you have two options in front of you. You either go down a well-travelled road, and pick commonly used and freely available stock photographs or you take the road less travelled and make an honest effort to search for images that have not been used a thousand times by all and sundry. Seek and you shall find!
Well, that’s it then. If you have used stock photographs on a website you have designed, these are reasons why your choice of photographs is actually taking your website down. All it requires is being really honest with yourself while evaluating the merits or demerits of stock photography before you use it on your site. This will ensure you are able to pick only the right photographs.
Abhishek Agarwal is Director, Business Development at Rightway Solution, a prominent firm involved in developing mobile apps. Abhishek is also an ecommerce site design expert. Feel free to have a chat with him on Google+.