Once, designers could overlook images in web design, or at the very least, could use poor-quality images with few repercussions. But as web design grows more minimalist and elegant, excellent photography becomes a must. Good photos will make a website look much better and move products and brands into a better light.
A Brief History of Images in Web Design
At the dawn of the World Wide Web, websites were entirely, or primarily, text. Any images were simple, small or of low resolution. And they were used sparingly: as aids to understanding the text, not design elements to build a webpage around. Visual aspects of a website — if there were any — focused on background colors and font choices.
This was because of technological limitations. Users were accessing websites with modems, and bandwidth was at a premium. When even text loaded very slowly, images were a luxury.
As cable, DSL and other rapid connections began to gain wide currency, web designers began to add more images to their pages. This briefly resulted in a period of extremely busy website design, where users were inundated with photos, navigation menus, frames and other design elements. Images had gained greater currency, but on such a busy website, they didn’t really stand out. If a photo wasn’t of high quality, it might look unprofessional or sloppy but it wouldn’t have a major effect on the website’s overall look.
Highlighting the Photo
But in the last several years, responsive mobile web design has come to the fore. Minimalism is “in” again. Designers favor light, restrained designs that look good on a smartphone and load quickly on 3G.
In this new mode, most designers use images — but instead of fading into the background, elegant design choices mean images take the fore. Users will notice the photo’s quality and respond to it.
When Everyone Has a Camera…
Cameras on smartphones mean everyone can now snap pictures easily. With filters and inexpensive photo editing software, it’s easier than ever to make a photo look its best. But even with a high-resolution camera and an understanding of PhotoShop, web designers often are falling short of their photos’ true potential.
Photographers have studied and practiced their art for several years. They know the importance of good lighting and how to get it. They’ll think up shots and angles that a layperson might not even think of.
And these website photos will typically be far better than public domain stock photos, too: they’ll be eye-catching and distinctive. In a world where every company has a website, these are key characteristics for any photo.
Making It Look Appealing
Humans are evolutionarily conditioned to love photos. Bright colors, light, and attractive composition draw the eye and make users want to stay on a website longer, or return to it.
Food and real estate companies know the importance of good photos. Clever photographic tricks can make a dull meal look appetizing or can even flip a house.
But these tricks aren’t unique to these fields. If a company executive looks sallow or tired in their head shot for a company’s About Us page, it affects the impression the user gets. If an office looks dreary, no one will want to work there or visit. If users see smiling, bland stock photos of company personnel in suits with briefcases, the company looks cheap.
By investing in high-quality, original photos to use with a minimalist web design, companies create an online environment that’s welcoming to users, clients, and customers. The end result is a professional look and feel — one that may be the deciding factor that causes a prospective client to choose a company.