Web Design and the Importance of Quality Images

There are several factors that affect a good website design, from a grid layout to simple navigation to powerful calls to action to color choice.  These are all very important and can be done in total control by the web designer.  Something that is equally important that a web designer does not have total control over is the quality of images he can use on the website.  Just look at the image above. It is obvious that the higher quality image is much more appealing. If your website is represented by a poor quality image, then your company and website may suffer.  Some of the side effects of poor quality images are higher bounce rates in analytics and a lesser perception of your website or company.

Whenever I start a web design project, there are several questions I have to ask the client before starting, and one of the questions is, “Do you have specific images that you want to use on your website?”  Sometimes, a client may answer no; this leaves it up to the designer to pick and choose appropriate images.  But more often than not, a client will say, “Yes, I have some photos I took that I want to include in a homepage slider.”  When I hear a client say this, I hold my breath, and then I ask to see them.  Sometimes, they can be great images, sometimes, they can be too small, have bad lighting, are grainy, outdated, etc.

How to politely let a client know they need different photos

You can’t just come out and say, “Hey, your photos suck!”  Well, maybe you could, depending on your relationship with the client (not recommended).  Using the list below, you can highlight one or more of the factors and let them know either the images won’t work, or they should consider professional images that will reflect the company or website as being professional.  Provide the client with samples of other better images you might use and have a comparison to their photos.  You can do this by creating different design mock-ups variations.  You need to communicate this early in a project.

What makes a bad image or photo?Out-Dated-Photos

  • Image Dimensions – is the photo 640 by 480, and you need a photo of at least 1920 x 1024 pixels?  Imagine how bad an image would appear being blown up four times its original size – yuk.
  • Wide / Tall Angle Images – let’s say the client’s image is a tall portrait image, and you need to fit it into a wide full-width slideshow.  This simply won’t work.
  • Blurry, Discolored, Low / High Contrast, Grainy, Shadows, & Saturation – Although some of this can be fixed in PhotoShop, you can only do so much to a bad photo.  PhotoShop is a tool, not a miracle worker.
  • Outdated – is the photo from 10 or more years ago, and it is very apparent in the image.  Are people in the photo wearing bell bottoms or using computers with CRT monitors?  Having an outdated image will make your website perceived as outdated before a visitor even reads the content.

Alternatives to using the client’s photos

Professional Photographer

Hiring a professional photographer may not always be in the project’s budget.  But when it is, this can dramatically improve the appearance of the design.  You could also tell the client that these photos could also be used in other mediums like print or advertising.  Having custom professional photos that can be fine-tuned to fit inside of your design is the designer’s dream.

Stock Images

I use stock images in most of my web design projects.  Stock images can range in price from one dollar to hundreds of dollars.  You have to find the best images that fit the client’s budget as well.

My preferred stock image sources include:illegal-photos

  • PhotoDune – this is my favorite and a great source of quality stock images on a budget.  Photos range from $1 to $7.
  • Other Stock Image Companies – like shutterstock, istockphoto, and fotolia can be great options for finding high quality images.  The downside to using these services is the price is dramatically higher than PhotoDune.

Illegally Downloaded Images

DON’T DO THIS.  Some designers or clients may think, “Well, why should I pay for photos when I can just download them from Google?”  This is obviously because of legal reasons, mostly because if you are caught using a photo without permission, the owner of the photo could easily sue you for thousands of dollars.  Ouch, I would ten times out of ten pay the small fee for a stock image then run the chance of getting sued.