Images as a design element have never been given the importance they truly deserve and now that we are entering an era of responsive web design, images are increasingly being seen as design elements that offer diminishing returns. They are like those guests who attend a party but were never invited in the first place.
That’s a real shame because images have always stood the test of time; but the fact that plenty of designers saw them purely as decorative elements with no real purpose whatsoever meant that the talk about images more often than not, centers on ‘how good they look”, and not ‘how they play an important role in website design’.
It’s important not to blame ‘images’ for their incorrect use by web designers. The truth is that images are as important today, in the scheme of things, as they were earlier. Today, a business’s online presence is only considered successful, if it’s profitable. This profitability is a result of buyers making a decision to buy the business’s products or services; and this buying decision is usually an emotional one.
So, what we can infer is that successful websites shouldn’t just be aesthetically or functionally sound, but must alsoproject the right emotions. And if you are to pick one design element that can help you build emotion into your websites, it’s an ‘image’.
Right since the time we are born, images play an important role in how we assimilate information and understand how the world around us works. In fact, very early on in our lives, we are able to interpret the emotions behind images. For e.g. a baby cannot understand words spoken in anger, but an angry facial expression tells the baby all there is to know. As we grow older our emotional response to images become well entrenched and our mind becomes equipped with a set of predictable responses to particular images. What we feel when we see a particular image, is not a sudden realization, but an outcome of what we have kept learning since infancy. It’s almost like an indoctrination of sorts.
Take a look at this image:
You immediately know that the kid is angry. You don’t need to analyze or understand to get a feel of the palpable anger of the kid. That’s because our brain has been programmed since its earliest stages to understand an emotion exuded by an image.
Using image psychology in website design
Powerful images don’t just reflect a particular emotion but also create a relational association between the viewer and that image. The point being that these images are used for the sole purpose ofbringing forth the right emotion out of you.
Let’s pick an emotion like ‘sympathy’ to better illustrate this point.
Care is one of the world’s foremost NGOs and its online presence effectively captures the essence of its objectives and purpose. The core images used on the site elicit ‘sympathy’. The images fuel a strong sympathetic response from the viewers, persuading them to support all that this organization is doing. That’s the raw power of images.
Its website design uses images that showcase sympathy, and what’s more images are given the importance they deserve. It’s the images, their relevance and their quality that makes us want to read the associated text. It’s the images that make the website work.
Now, let’s take a look at another emotion – Passion
Reebok is one of the world’s premier sportswear brands and a sport is all about passion. Take a look at its site and tell me its images don’t showcase a passion for sports brilliantly. You look at those images and you begin to feel a passion for sports as well. The images on the site energize and make you want to do everything that the people in those images are doing.
The images are instilling an emotion which you otherwise might not have felt. It is this emotion which will make you want to buy a Reebok product. That’s their power.
Choice and Placement Walk Hand in Hand
If you are looking to use images to trigger a necessary emotion, its placement is also important. The right image and the right placement ensure the right impact. Take a look
This image hits you as soon as you open Mission First. It’s the centerpiece of the Home Page, and you can’t ignore it. If you want images to acts as facilitators of powerful emotions, then perfect placement is the key.
If your image is a tool to generate the right emotion in website visitors, it must be able to grab immediate attention. It shouldn’t be placed where it will be ignored, or where a visitor will register it passingly. It must be the leitmotif or better yet, the Pièce de résistance of a particular page.
Your image will only deliver value if your visitors sub-consciously understand its importance in the website’s design. For that to happen, proper placement is an absolute must.
Wrapping it up
Do not undermine the importance of images by thinking of them as mere designing accessories. They can play a stellar role in your website by acting as emotion agents. The perfect image picked with a view to elicit a persuasive emotion from your visitors, will go a long way in improving the conversion ratio of your site, and by association, its profitability as well.