Compared to text, photos take longer to render. Websites with a lot of photos have slower loading times directly impacting user experience (UX). Limiting the number of photos is important to create fast loading and usable sites.
Photos: noticed or ignored?
Riegelsberger et al (no date) analysed the impact of photographs and found the following main points:
- Text takes longer to process. Text interpretation simply takes longer.
- First time visitors look at photos. Experience influences what we see.
- Attractive facial photos are attention grabbing.
- We learn page structure. Returning, thus familiar, visitors ignore regions unless text or photos are displayed.
- Consistent user behaviour evidence does not exist. Some studies suggest photos of faces attract visual attention whereas other studies suggest we ignore photos because we link them to adverts causing banner blindness.
Critical analysis of Riegelsberger et al’s work would conclude that we should: (i) limit the number of web photos, (ii) include first time and return visitors in user personas, (iii) create relevant photos and think about using a facial photo to catch the attractive-seeking eye.
Web photo tips and analysis
We scan webpages often unconsciously. Page location impacts attention. Element size affects attention maintenance. Larger elements do not get more attention. Think about where you place items as supposed to what size they are.
Photos add character to websites. Text heavy websites, from a design viewpoint, are dull. Interesting websites have character with a positive balance of text and other media formats, such as, videos and photos, for example. Use a mixture of formats on your website.
One of the most tactful and clever ways to gain hyperlinks is to produce unusually striking photos and allow other people to use or edit them under a Creative Commons License. Your license can be granted under the condition that the user attributes the photo — the hyperlink. Creative commons’ licenses are tactfully very effective for search engine optimisation (SEO).
Position 1 in the image above gains the most attention, followed by postion 2 and 3. We also tend to associate position 1 with 2 whereas position 3, on the right hand side, is usually associated with advertisements. Owens (2011) also found that things we associate with adverts cause blindness regardless of format (text and photos).
Including photos on your website
Include great photos because they add character and improve the overall UX. Limit the number of photos, though. Depending upon how familiar a user is with your website they will either ignore or focus their attention on your photos. The location of elements on your website is important because we scan for information too.
It is also worth noting that search tasks influences photo acknowledgement and concentration. An Amazon user is likely to focus on photos if their task is to buy a product. If, however, a frequent user goes onto website-a to read an article photos might be ignored.
Do you work with digital media? How many photos do you recommended? Share your thoughts by tweeting Gerald.
Posted by Gerald Murphy
- Granka, L. (2006) Location, location, location: Viewing patterns on WWW pages. Proceedings of ACM. [Volume and issue numbers missing] pp. 43
- Owens, J.W. (2011) Are users blind to text advertisements? Usability News. 13(1) pp. 1 — 6
- Riegelsberger, J. Sasse, M.A. and McCarthy, J.D. (no date) Eye-Catcher or Blind Spot? The Effect of Photographs of Faces on E-Commerce Sites. [journal title missing] [Volume and issue numbers missing] pp. 1 — 15