Image, and Web Site Images

  |  October 10, 2003   |  Comments

Graphics are more than window-dressing. Do your site graphics inform, persuade and sell? When are images better than words?

The right words can be worth many thousands of images. Regular readers of this column and my book should be familiar with my thoughts on the subject. It's the nature of the Web that words are the foundation of the medium. This does not mean images can or should be neglected. One very effective way to boost your conversion rate for retailing, lead generation, and even content and self-service sites is to optimize your images.

Blurred Vision

Ever click an image (it may say "click for details") only to be brought to a page displaying a larger image, but no site elements and no way of either buying or leaving? Perhaps the image appeared as a pop-up (that may or may not be blocked) with a huge product picture, but no call-to-action. Click "larger image" here. The only way you can get out of there is to click the browser back button or close the window.

This halts persuasive momentum. An image's objective is to facilitate the buying process, not to make a site look cool or flashy. Every pixel should carry its conversion weight in gold. If a picture doesn't help sell, it could hurt. It wastes valuable real estate. If you use a shopping engine like Froogle, the fight for the click-through starts with an image. How does your product image stand out from your competitors'?

User Interface Engineering tested how online shoppers bought hiking boots from the REI and L.L. Bean sites. Although the boots were nearly identical, the firm found REI easily outsold its competitor. The difference: REI featured a photo that showed the sole of the hiking boot, L.L. Bean did not.

"This example shows that you have to know what the customer wants," UIE Founding Principal Jared Spool said. "It's crucial to know how they're shopping at your site."

Pictures or Words?

  • Words work for procedural information, logical conditions and abstract concepts.

  • Images work for details, location, and explaining spatial structures.

  • Does the image convey real value?

Words are symbols. Symbols are powerful conveyors of abstract thought. Usually, images aren't as precise as words. Be careful what your images convey. You may think you're saying one thing, but images may say the opposite.

What should you show?

Recently, a friend wanted to "pop up" a larger image of a vitamin bottle. What's the value visitors get from the front of a vitamin bottle? What a visitor should see is a larger image of the back of the bottle. The label is what could be significant. One way to do this would be to have an image of the front and an image of the back of the bottle side by side. Then, link to a page with a larger picture and additional details (features). (After all, they clicked for more details).

That way, you display all the calls-to-action. These could include an add-to-cart button or present all the product size and feature options. The persuasive momentum continues. A pop-up isn't the best option for this situation. They generally slow momentum. The point of the image is to persuade. Why do so many people fail to realize images are to aid in the persuasion process, not just portray what the product looks like?

An Excuse to Buy

Never overestimate your visitor. Assume she needs more information. TigerDirect is a wonderful example of a Web site that isn't afraid to explain and explain and explain. It uses images, words, and lots of 'em. When the page with images loads, you'll see they spent time optimizing and compressing them for low bandwidth.

Lands End uses images and diagrams to provide visitors the information they need. They even use a virtual model to permit you to "try on" clothes. This idea can be adapted for many types of Web sites. Imagine showing a china pattern on different color tablecloths, or with different place settings. Zooming in on an accessory like a wallet to see the grain and stitching (they miss with "enlarge image"). The possibilities are endless.

What's the Image Trying to Convey?

There are three things an image can convey:

  • Features

  • Benefits

  • Values


Does the image accurately portray product features? Consider alternate ways to show features. If you feature product size, is it in the palm of a hand, next to a competitor's product, or sitting alone and not answering your prospect's question?


Does the image convey the benefits? If you sell cookware, is the image pots and pans, or food those pots and pans produce? People don't always buy a pan. They may buy an easy way to clean, or durability.

Consider how these sites portray a simple cheese cutting board:


A value image needn't be placed near a product. These images may convey the value of your site as well as the value of a product. Look how ClickTracks, a Web analytics company, uses these images on their site.

Does the Image Convey Your Image?

Obviously, images must have the same "feel" throughout your site. Image quality, look and feel must be consistent. Images must relate to your site and the value you're trying to portray. If each image looks and "feels" different, you'll loose your site's overall value.

Value is conveyed though the words and images you use. Credibility and value are life and death. A visitor needs a reason to buy a product on your site, not to search for a lower price. The words and images on your site must be consistent with the value you convey.

ClickZ Live Chicago Join the Industry's Leading eCommerce & Direct Marketing Experts in Chicago
ClickZ Live Chicago (Nov 3-6) will deliver over 50 sessions across 4 days and 10 individual tracks, including Data-Driven Marketing, Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email. Check out the full agenda and register by Friday, August 29 to take advantage of Super Saver Rates!


Bryan Eisenberg

Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES,, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Analytics newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!



Featured White Papers

IBM: Social Analytics - The Science Behind Social Media Marketing

IBM Social Analytics: The Science Behind Social Media Marketing
80% of internet users say they prefer to connect with brands via Facebook. 65% of social media users say they use it to learn more about brands, products and services. Learn about how to find more about customers' attitudes, preferences and buying habits from what they say on social media channels.

Marin Software: The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising

The Multiplier Effect of Integrating Search & Social Advertising
Latest research reveals 68% higher revenue per conversion for marketers who integrate their search & social advertising. In addition to the research results, this whitepaper also outlines 5 strategies and 15 tactics you can use to better integrate your search and social campaigns.


    Information currently unavailable



    • Chinese Speaking Copywriter
      Chinese Speaking Copywriter (Agora Financial) - BaltimoreDo you speak Chinese? Are you interested in economics and finance or want to learn more...
    • Video/Digital Media Designer
      Video/Digital Media Designer (Confidential) - Delray BeachFull service corporate video production studio looking to hire a creative, and highly...
      HEAD OF SALES (OZONE MEDIA) - Santa HEAD OF SALES POSITION Reporting to the founder & CEO, Kiran Gopinath, the Head...