Last updated on November 30th, 2010
It’s been a long held view that images on web pages help with customer retention and conversions. But new eye-tracking studies from usability expert Jakob Nielsen shows dramatic differences in the impact different types of images have.
In short, users pay attention to photos and images containing relevant information while they tend to ignore images designed to “jazz up” a web page.
Even with high-speed Internet connections and ultra fast downloads, Nielsen’s research shows how users continue to be annoyed with flashy images containing no real information.
E-commerce sites for instance benefit tremendously from product photos as shown by the image below on the left.
Another popular photo option – enlarged product photos when requested by the user. Five years ago, Nielsen said not including a large enough photo so customers could see a product in more detail was one of the biggest mistakes webmasters made. While users dislike big photos that get in their way, they do seem to like looking at them per their requests when evaluating a product.
One more takeaway from Nielsen’s eye-tracking study regarding e-commerce sites – copying what the big guys do isn’t always the best idea as shown by the image from Amazon.com above. Since Amazon offers such a wide-range of products, they have a standardized layout for their pages. What works for some products doesn’t work so well for others for them.
On the other hand, the Pottery Barn (whose image is above), has a generally narrow range of products. They can tailor images to specific products much easier and as a result, these images get more attention.
Assuring customers they’re dealing with real people by including a head shot or portrait of important company personnel is another way images are very beneficial
In fact, it’s also been a long held view that including portraits of company employees was crucial to effectively presenting a company’s image online. This helps users put a name with a face and assures them they’re not dealing with some “faceless” corporation that’s far removed from them.
Look at the following example – according to this eye-tracking study, users spent 10% more time looking at the portraits than the rest of the site’s content, which accounted for 316% more content than the portraits themselves.
However, if it’s obvious the pictures are stock photos and don’t represent actual people at a company, users tend to ignore them.
In the end, pictures can contribute a lot of value to your website if they’re done right. Simply copying and pasting generic images to your page will largely be ignored according to these studies.