Which of the following two home pages would make you want to browse a website more?
a) Clean design with a few unique and compelling images
b) A mass of text
The answer is a no brainer: b of course!
Keeping a website well-ordered and spare is a central tenet of good design, and engaging media is one of the best strategies for keeping eyes on the page. We’re visual creatures, and we develop much stronger connections to images and videos than blocks of text.
If done right, stock photography and stock footage are a simple way to achieve the look and engagement a site needs without having to hire a professional photographer. But there is a wrong way, too. Any use of stock photo sites must come with a strategy. Here is ours.
Too often, businesses focus more on the emotion they’d like to evoke rather than to the relevance of the image they pick. This has lead to a surplus of sites featuring anonymous call center employees, smiling into the camera. More often than not, the business doesn’t even have anything to do with call centers. What’s more, people hate telemarketers. Why, then, the upfront feature?
A much better strategy is to find stock photography that relates directly to the purpose of the business or site. If the site is for a tutoring business, show students and teachers, papers, computers, textbooks, pencils – anything that says, “Classroom.” If the site is for a landscaping company, stick with people working in gardens, lawns and patios rather than, say, a business person meant to represent the owner shaking hands. Always ask yourself, “If there were no text on this site, what would I think this business is about?”
At the very least, stay away from any cliche that might also be a meme, like men smiling into their fruit salad, women laughing into vegetable salad, women proud of their two apples, women struggling to drink water and people kissing their computers. At this point, these images have had plenty of less than favorable publicity, and using them is more likely to spark eye rolls than enthusiasm.
Vectors Are Your Friends
Stock photo sites carry a wealth of vectors these days, from the highly abstract to cartoon humans walking dogs. Some are so good they could be hanging on a wall in a museum. Use vectors to piece together your own image, establish a symbol to represent the business, or simply create a new and interesting look.
Experiment With Stock Videos
The same goes for stock videos, which can range from full-out productions to what amounts to a more complex version of a GIF. These videos use compelling, looped stock footage to draw in viewers. Don’t go overboard, of course – one per page should be more than enough – but do consider this as a way to make your website stand apart.
No matter what type of site you’re designing, these strategies are sure to attract and retain users, all without breaking the bank.