Sourcing the right images for your website

Tue 13th Sep 2016

Images are an important part of your website but sourcing or creating the best ones isn't always easy. The right image can communicate immediately what the website and your business is all about. Good choices help to create a brand identity and boost your search engine optimisation (SEO) rankings.

You need to be careful when choosing images for your website. The wrong image, or a badly used one, can confuse, annoy, or even drive potential customers away by giving visitors a negative impression of your business.

Choosing your images

Your images must be relevant to the content of the page as well as consistent with your brand, not just there for the sake of it. The images should; appeal to your target audience, represent your business or your ideal customer and complement the design of the website.

Generic stock photograph example

Avoid generic, over-used cliches like the example here. An image like this is obviously a stock photograph of people with nothing to do with your business, so why put them on your website? Using this does nothing to distinguish you from your competitors and does nothing to boost the legitimacy of your business.

If possible, get some good photographs taken of your business and your staff at work. While initially expensive it's a great investment as you won't be restricted to just using them on your website, you can use them over and over on other promotional materials such as banners, leaflets and brochures. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use stock images at all, just make sure the ones you use on your site communicate something about your business. Use images to create or reinforce the ethos of your company or the personality, knowledge and experience of the people and products that make your business what it is.

Creating your own images

Creating your own images is the cheapest way to get visuals on your website and guarantees that your images will be unique, with the bonus that you don't have to worry about copyright or other legal issues.

If you are selling products through your website you are very likely to need to take your own photographs. Great images showing what your products look like and how they work will do more to sell them than any amount of description could.

Quality is key

Whether you choose to take your own images for your website or to hire a professional photographer, make sure the images are high quality. Blurry, badly lit or badly composed images send the wrong message about your business, one of low or bad quality.

Using Stock Photography

Taking your own photographs or hiring a professional are the easiest ways to get the exact images you want for your website, but what if you don’t have the equipment, the skills or the budget?

Stock photos provide a quick, affordable solution and with a little time and patience you can find the right images to work with your design and get your message across. There are lots of places to find good images to use on your website, both rights free / creative commons and paid. Here are a few of the more popular ones:

  • Pixabay (free)
  • Gratisography (free)
  • ISO Republic (free)
  • BigStock (buy photo packs or by monthly subscription)
  • Dreamstime (buy photo packs or by monthly subscription)
  • Shutterstock (buy photo packs or by monthly subscription)

If you decide to go with free images, make sure you pay attention to the license to make sure that you have the right to use them for commercial projects or if you have to give credit to the author. Failure to pay for the use of images or to obtain the correct license can result in a fine or even legal action!

Optimising images

File size

The size of your images files is important. File size refers to the amount of space that the image takes up when stored. A balance needs to be struck between the highest quality image and the load on your server. Using images that are larger than necessary will increase page load time and slow down your website which is one of the biggest reasons users abandon a page, but images that are too small look bad quality.
As well as reducing the dimensions of the images you use (the width and height in pixels), there are free apps which compress your images with minimal loss of quality, JPEGmini is one that I use and there is a free 'Lite' version which you can use to compress up to 20 images a day.

Image naming and labelling

The search engine bots that crawl your website can’t see your images so they should be described by an alt attribute. This alt attribute is a short description of an image and it can also be a great place to add some keywords to help your products or services to show up in image search results. BUT, this is something that has been abused in the past, so the alt text needs to be relevant to the image and not repetitive. For example, you shouldn’t label an image of a flower arrangement with the alt text “custom websites for Essex, web design Suffolk” as it makes no sense and this sort of bad practise could have a negative effect on your SEO.

To correctly optimise your images give each a brief, descriptive, relevant file name and alt text attribute. Most of this is something that I will take care of for you, but if you have the facility to add images in the content management system of your website you will be able to add alt attributes to the associated images.

In conclusion

Images are about so much more than just making your website look good.  If used badly, they can give completely the wrong impression but used well they communicate a lot to your website users very quickly and show off the best aspects of your business.

by Rachel Watson