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Choose the Best Images for Your Web Pages

Usability Tip

Choose images that enhance your story: engage your reader with faces or meaningful imagery.

Use the text of your article to list participants and describe activities. You don't need to prove anything photographically: if an image is distracting instead of engaging, your story loses value. You leave your reader wondering, "What is going on there?" or, "What's that face he's making?" instead of focusing on your content.

In many cases, using no picture is better than using a bad picture. For alternatives to poor event photos, you might consider:

  • asking speakers or participants to pose for a picture when the event wraps up (perhaps near a landmark or holding an event banner),
  • contacting speakers for professional headshots, or
  • using a generic close-up of something relevant (clasped hands, a lit chalice, marching feet...).

Close-ups work best for catching the eye. When an image contains a lot of detail important to your story, be sure to describe that detail in your text; then the image serves the purpose of accentuating and supplementing your article instead of bearing the weight of delivering important information.

Jakob Nielsen's "Banner Blindness: Old and New Findings" offers some tips on effective imagery, along with a reminder that the content area of a page is most viewed, and therefore most important.

"...we know that there are 3 design elements that are most effective at attracting eyeballs:

  • Plain text
  • Faces
  • Cleavage and other 'private' body parts"

Accessibility Alert: Images, obviously, rely upon the ability to see. "Alt" tags should provide a text equivalent to each image used to convey content. Alternative text should be accurate, equivalent, and succinct, and it should avoid redundancy (if the content of the image is already in the body of the article or in a caption for the image, it is then desirable to make the alt tag empty). Read Appropriate Use of Alternative Text for more detail.

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

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Last updated on Tuesday, March 19, 2013.

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