A website can be much like a meal – the first bite is always with the eye. It doesn’t matter how good the content is, how great the piece of steak on the plate if it doesn’t look right, it’s going to put people off.

First Impressions Count

The first impression on your website boils down to a couple of elements, first of which is a good design. Proper, adaptive layouts that look good on all devices from mobiles to Macs with hi-res screens. You’d think that was a given, but surprisingly a lot of people still get it wrong.

Quality Product Photography

The second element is the imagery and photography. Continuing with the food theme, think of well-known fast-food chains, or independent restaurants. Don’t those burgers look succulent, delicious and make you want to bite into them without a second thought? That’s the effect you want your photos to have for your potential customers. You want them to look at your product and think “yes – I’m having a bit of that”.

Sadly, so many companies, particularly smaller ones and new start-ups, don’t think this through. They tap into the popular conception that photography is expensive and not always worth it. “I’ve got a good camera on my mobile – that’ll do.”

“That’ll do.” Surely the death-knell of any business that wants to make a go of it?

If you’re selling a range of products, quality pictures of your products are absolutely vital. Think of your customers walking into a shop – they’re not going to read about how great that bag or pair of shoes is, or where the leather came from. They’re going to look at those items and make a judgement on whether they like it or not. Instantly.

Quality imagery might not be such a problem if you’re buying in from a larger manufacturer who has already done this work for you (how else did they sell their product to you, right?), but what if you’re a specialist boutique creating one-off designs that you’re making yourself? Or, back on the food theme, a newly-opening restaurant.

You’ve put all that effort into creating the design and assembled it in intricate detail. You know the amount of work you’ve put into it – designing the item or perfecting the recipe, so why are you putting it on your slickly, professionally designed website with an amateur photo taken on your phone in your spare room with a picture of your dog in the background? Or in the case of a restaurant under harsh lights on a grubby table with dust and food scraps around it.

It sounds made up, but it truly isn’t. We’ve seen them. The web is littered with sites and shots like this, and so many otherwise fantastic sites are let down by poor quality imagery.

Good photography doesn’t have to be expensive. Most people know someone who’s good with a camera, who has the eye for detail, who understands setting up shots and has a good grasp of how to manipulate light. It’s not just about the camera, it’s about knowing what to do with it to get a good, commercial, usable result. Good shots ARE achievable with a mobile phone, but you’ve really got to know what you’re doing. Snapshots just won’t cut the mustard.

Sell Your Service With Images

If you’re selling a service rather than a product, the imagery is still no less important. People tend to scan text rather than read every word, so you’ve got to make sure your imagery reflects the service and quality you’re providing. It needs to be appropriate for your firm and your market.

Some people don’t like stock photography – they find it impersonal and untrustworthy, and in some cases that can be true. No-one in a call centre really has teeth that white, do they? That said, choosing your imagery wisely and picking something a bit different, something that fits your brand well without looking too staged, that can really make your site pop and say exactly what you’re about before the reader has even finished the first paragraph.

There’s a psychology at work here too, across the board with both products and services. People trust people, so if it’s appropriate, and where you can, include them in your imagery. Remind the client that there’s a real person behind the wall of pixels in front of them.

If you have a client-facing team of people and want to showcase their skills on your page, don’t skimp on the photography there either. Show them at their best. That Facebook picture of them on holiday is no doubt a lovely shot, but it’s not exactly what you’d call professional. Going back to the earlier point, invest in a photographer if you can to get some solid, professional looking portraits, even if you’re just going for a more casual look within your company. Let the look be casual, not the photography.

The importance of images for websites

Fire Their Imagination With Your Pictures

Again, think of larger clothing shops – you’ll often see posters dotted around with a cut-out of the item on a white background. Those are great, but in many cases, you’ll see those clothes on models in situ at a park, or a restaurant – somewhere they want you, the customer, to imagine yourself. That’s what you want to be doing with your imagery and photography.

Content Vs Imagery? No. Choose Both.

The only downside to all this great imagery is that Google doesn’t really search it. It can’t look at an image and say “yes, this is a web-design firm”, so you’ve got to have well-written content to go alongside it. Something that Google can crawl and index and positively identify who you are and what you’re doing.

It’s all about balance, in the end. It’s your content and descriptions that will bring users to your site, but if your imagery isn’t up to scratch then the chances are people will leave and go elsewhere, somewhere that looks more “professional”. Likewise, if your pictures are pixel perfect but you’re not getting the content in, no-one’s going to find you to see how amazing your wares are.

Need both?

Here at Merlin’s Mule, we pride ourselves on being a bit different, with a view to making you and your business stand out above the rest. Whether you’re a restaurant or boutique, garage or garage-band, we’ve got the wherewithal to make you a site to be proud of that’s not a sight to be ashamed of. And yes, we do have a photographer.

Contact Merlin’s Mule today on 01625 359025 to see what we can do for you. And make it snappy!