When was the last time you sat down and read the content on a website in full? You probably never have, at least not to the extent we’re talking about.
While looking at a retailer or e-commerce site, you probably skim a list of features and options when reading about products. Looking at reviews, you might check out the key points, or a bulleted list the author put together — maybe you even jump right to the overall score or rating.
On text-heavy or news-type site you probably read the headlines, skimming for an article or post that interests you. Once you find something, you read the bulk of the content, unless you realize you’re not that interested after all. The result is that maybe you end up reading one or two articles, mostly skimming headlines, before navigating away.
Even traditionally printed assembly and instruction manuals need to include images and diagrams, because it’s what we migrate to most, right? We’re willing to bet you only read the full instructions if you run into a hurdle or find a step confusing.
Our Brains Like Images Better Than Words
If none of these descriptions fit you and you read absolutely anything and everything, you’re the exception. Why? Because people tend to resonate with visual content more. Think of how you retain information. If it’s easier to do so when presented visually, you’re one of the sixty percent of people who are visual learners.
Consider the facts. Your brain is capable of processing visuals 60,000 times faster than text. Facebook posts with photos or images often garner more “likes” and “shares” than any other form of content, including text, video and hyperlinks. Publishers that release information via infographics see a 12% increase in traffic compared to those who don’t. Finally, Pinterest — out of all social networks like Twitter, Google+, YouTube, and LinkedIn — generates more referral traffic for business than all others, just because it’s image-content heavy.
What’s the point? Showing a message visually is much stronger than telling or explaining it when it comes to modern web design and content creation. Need some more evidence? Here are four more convincing factors.
1. Design Is About Psychology, Not Visual Appeal
Visuals are outstanding — there’s no question. But we’re going to take it back to basics here. The goal of a design or web theme is to carry out or complete a particular action. It could be that you want your customers to buy a product, or reach out for more information. Maybe you want them to subscribe to an email newsletter, or perhaps you just want to explain who your brand is and what you do.
The main ingredient to a successful website has almost nothing to do with pretty or attractive design elements. While you don’t want your site to be unsightly, it all boils down to customer behavior, user patterns and trends — and it’s all tied to psychology. What will your audience engage with most? What will keep them hooked on your site and content, keeping your bounce rates low?
Even graphic designers need to understand the psychology that goes behind a modern design. What colors, shades and tones turn people off? How will you draw attention to a specific side of your page? Is blue the best color for your background?
Inherently, these questions all have more to do with psychology than modern design and styling. The lesson is that simple psychology tells us images are better than words. Therefore, visual content should be your focus during all web design projects.
Pay attention to how even a site as minimal as Newegg’s can appeal to your senses and experiences. Most people scan a page or view them in an F-shaped pattern. Across the top of Newegg’s site is their primary banner and navigation, on the left is their menu, and then the rest of the page is dedicated to attractive, visuals of products in their inventory. It’s executed almost perfectly — but the average Joe might never have realized it.
2. Branding Is About Personality
Your company name, brand, logo, primary colors and mission statement. They all make up one core component of your business, along with the temperament of your employees and the experience your customers have — your brand’s personality. And that’s precisely what “branding” really is, isn’t it? It’s translating that personality, those traits and characteristics to your customers and audience.
The best way to show off your personality — especially via web design — is through visual themes and content. The colors, typography, photos and images, videos, text, phrases, headlines — all these factors contribute to the bigger picture of your brand’s personality.
Are you quirky or serious? Are you slightly goofy, or downright stoic? You can portray these characteristics with visual content and elements. That’s exactly why “showing” is stronger than merely telling, or leaving it up to your audience to guess. Show them your personality, and show them what your brand stands for.
Just spare a moment to scan the front page of Basecamp’s website. It’s positively oozing personality, but not only because of the text content, but it also has to do with the design, style and visuals.
3. Visuals Are Simplistic
You hear it often — keep it simple. Your customers only have so much time to consume content, peruse your site or review your products. The ultimate goal then is to keep them focused and interested for as long as possible. You do this by keeping things simple, toned down and efficient. Visuals like photos and videos happen to be incredibly useful.
Often, you can portray an entire paragraph — or more — of text with a single photo or image. A picture’s worth 1000 words, right? That’s because visuals, by nature, tend to be simplistic, but informative.
Check out this image from Xpand Laces. It perfectly shows the convenience and supports their unique shoe design offers, with as few words as possible. Just a single image portrays everything they need to say, while an entire paragraph or more would be required for a text variant.
4. Evergreen Yet Replaceable
Images, unless they’re tied to a specific event or date, tend to be evergreen. A customer using your product, for instance, would work perfectly as a highlight in your design for years to come, even after the product has seen revisions and updates. When it’s time to update the image, just swap it out with another, more modern display.
Images and media are convenient, evergreen and more importantly, easily replaceable. Text often must be edited, updated and rewritten to make up for changing designs and themes. At worst, you must crop, resize or maybe even reshoot a photo. Words, on the other hand, must be altered almost entirely to fit new designs, branding goals, concepts, mission statements and more.
Images and visual content are the ideal solutions for keeping your site current and up-to-date.
*Cover image by Miro Koljanin.