Gone are the days when text dominated the web pages and there were few other elements that were incorporated to enhance the visual appeal and convey the message across effectively. Content on blogs and website is now increasingly showcasing relevant graphics, videos, graphs and infographics etc to deliver the message more effectively and this is now also a big factor on how the search engines assess and rank your page.
Pages with rich media are gaining popularity both with readers and search engines. This makes it necessary on how to use these and other visual elements on the page in an emphatic and accessible way so that it gives the much needed boost to your content. In this post we will look at some of the factors that should be kept in mind while using visual media into your blogging efforts.
Why should we add images, videos and animations to a blog?
The simple answer can be derived from the paragraph above but there are many other reasons for which one should not miss out on adding relevant media elements to content on his blog, some of which are listed below:
- An image such as logo and other branding elements give a character and personality to your blog and help it stand out from the crowd.
- Visual media helps in enhancing the user experience for a blog and helps build a positive impact on the visitor of your blog.
- Chances are great that if you have tagged your media correctly and have done the SEO carefully for your images, videos, charts, graphs podcasts etc., users will find them when they search on media search engines like google images, youtube, flickr etc. This means more eyeballs for your blog.
- An image is worth a thousand words – Someone said this for a very important reason. Imagine presenting a user with a long set of tabular data and representing the same data with the help of a pie chart or bar chart, which one will be more effective? Of course the visual one.
- Images, videos, infographics and podcasts tend to become more viral then pure text content. So if you have them in your blog and if you have enabled social sharing on them chances are good that some of the interesting elements from this group can get you the much needed traffic boost to your blog.
Facts to be kept in mind while adding visual elements to your blog:
- Consistent placement of logo and blog design: A logo gives character to your blog and should be consistent across the website both in terms of position and look. You can’t have a yellow color logo on one page center aligned in the header while another with blue color aligned left on your header. This will only confuse your visitor and hurt your brand identity. Same goes with the color scheme of your website. The reason we are emphasizing color here is that it along with other visual elements build the image of your website in a visitors mind. Don’t change the color scheme of your website unless it is done for sections or pages you want to stand out. A website that has different color scheme for all of your pages will not help in a consistent user experience. Another point not to miss about logo of your blog or website is that it should be linked to the home page. Many users expect this and as the awareness of web design elements grows this would be one of the essential requirements while designing a blog or website. Same thing is true for the sections of your website if you are highlighting sections in or around our logo people should be able to click on the section logo image and land on the section home page.
- Avoid using big background images: The days of web pages or blogs with heavy background images which could be a single image or a small image tiled across the entire blog page have ended. There are many reasons for this some of them are listed below:
- They can mess with the blog design and color scheme and sometimes even give the images and other visual content used in the blog an ugly look.
- In extreme cases of bad design they can even hamper the reading of foreground text.
- Large background images can be detrimental to the page speeds and increase download times.
If having a background image is absolutely necessary do it via CSS and use a small image or an image with optimized resolution and tile it on the background. But before doing so ensure the other design elements such as table colors, hyperlinks, text color, font styling, and other visual images used on the web pages are not affected by the presence of the background image.
- Use image maps effectively: Image maps are large or middle sized images of which different parts are linked to a different web page or section of blog. A simple example can be the image of the USA where every state boundary links to a landing page for that state. Image maps are visually appealing but search engines can’t understand them unless each part is labeled clearly and provides the information about it to search engines clearly via html attributes. Besides providing information to search engines the image map should also provide clear labels to users when he hovers over a part of image. The data could be about the state concerned and other associated information that a user will find on clicking on that image part ( in case of the USA state map). This is also valid if different parts of products are explained via an image map to a user. Whenever a user hovers on an image it should provide the Alt text and if it is clickable it should provide information about the destination.
- Avoid images that look like ads: Though banners and images are an important part of web based advertising but it is a proven fact that more and more web users are getting ‘ banner blind’. This means that visitors scan web pages for information and due to sheer volume of banners on the web their eyes have adapted to differentiate meaningful images from advertisement banners and they simply ignore the ones which look like advertisements. So if you are presenting important information via images and other visual elements on your blog make sure that they don’t follow the format and looks of an advertising banner. Chances are great that such images will be overlooked and all the effort done in creating the visual and the purpose of adding it to a web page will go down the drain.
- Don’t use images from public domain: Many people do this, they simply Google for their keyword and use the first image they get to support their content and add it to their blog. This shows a clear lack of professionalism and if a visitor who is a seasoned web user finds it being done regularly on your blog, is likely to lose the trust and authority it places on your blog. The ideal way is to cite the resource of the image and place it below the image and if possible link back to the source. This will enforce the fact in the mind of user that you give credit to the sources from where you take things and do respect the effort and creativity of others.
- Ensure that the visual elements don’t slow down your pages: Fast loading pages are the latest trend and this is getting increasingly popular with both the users and the search engines. So if your images are increasing the page size so that it takes it longer to load and the waiting time for visitors is more it will mean lot of people bouncing away from your website and maybe a decrease in organic search results rankings for your website. There are many strategies to decrease the page load times while using images and other visual elements on the web page, some of which are listed below:
- Use CSS Sprites: If you have multiple images which, CSS sprites can be very handy in minimizing the http requests to your server. The entire image will be available with a single http request while CSS will handle the parts of images to be shown on the web page. This is a very good practice and is being readily used by websites and blogs which have heavy traffic and want to minimize the download times.
- Use the required size image, don’t scale down: If your image requirements are 100 x 100 pixels there is no point in using a 500 x 500 images and scaling it down to 100 x 100 pixels. A good thing is to do it offline and load the image with appropriate dimensions so that the page size is not unnecessarily burdened.
- Use appropriate format of images: Web pages support different formats of images like .gif, .jpeg .png etc and each one of these have their own color compression and resolution capabilities. Depending on what kind of resolution and colors your images carry you can choose the appropriate format and reduce the size of the image to be loaded on the web page.
- Visual elements should be contextually relevant: Don’t just put an image on a page because it will look good or just add some visual appeal. The image or video used in a webpage should enhance user experience and complement the understanding of the entire content. An explanatory video which tells more about the content on the page and charts which depict the numeric data in a visually appealing form are some examples. Another thing to keep here in mind is the user perspective towards the images used on the web page. The designer and users have their own perception and it is always better to go with the user’s perspective because it is for him that web page is created for in the first place. A simple test can be done after creating the web page by asking few of your colleagues to describe their point of view on the images and other visual content and take their response into account while designing web pages and including images in future.
- Mix text and images intelligently: There are many examples where you can find that an entire page is just an image or the most important part of the web page which is above the fold consists only of image. If a visitor has images turned off in his browser such a website will not be able to deliver any powerful message across to the visitor. A healthy mix and match of text with relevant images that enhance the understanding of text is the best option to have. This helps a visitor understand the content presented on the web page even if he has images turned off in his browser.
- Include actual data while presenting charts and graphs: Though people find it more useful when a pie chart or bar graph is used to show the tabular data, but all these visual antics become fuzzy when they are not presented with actual data. So if you are planning to include graphical representation of data make sure that you also include the actual figures somewhere on the chart so that it becomes more intelligible and the visitor is able to grasp the information completely.
- Call to action elements should also have images: How many times have you seen a contact us number on web pages with a smiling face besides it and one with just an icon of a telephone with the number? Which one of these gives a better impression? Of course the ones with personalities attached to it has a greater chance of getting recognized. This presents a good case for call to action buttons with images of real personalities alongside them. The simple psychological fact that human beings are more comfortable in dealing with real people rather some bot or automated system gives strength to this point. However this cannot be applied in every case, but wherever it can be it should be done in order to gain maximum ROI on your call to action elements.
- Don’t start the video or animation on page load: Many websites or blogs who have inserted video or an animation in their page have settings that start playing the video as soon as the page loads. This creates burden on page load times and most of the time is annoying for the visitors. Same goes for any background music that has been inserted and blares on page load. Visitors should be given an option to choose when they want to play the video or watch the animation. Clear cut instructions in this regard will help improve the user experience of your website or blog.
- Use product images with real models and show it from all angles: If your e-commerce website is selling t-shirts or apparels it is better to showcase your products using real models rather than showing plain shirts, tees or jeans. Showing multiple product images from different angles simulates the buying behavior of a user when he is shopping in a real supermarket. Such images which show details of the product on mouse hover and use real models are more likely to get purchased.
- Show real author image in author bio section: A real world image of the author will help gain your blog more credibility than an icon or a avatar. As Google has started to show the pictures of authors and their social connections in search results it is common sense that you use a real picture to identify with your visitors on your blog posts.
Images, charts, graphs, videos, animations and other multimedia elements add richness to your web page and the more such elements you add to complement your content the better it is both for you as the blog owner and the visitor. Keeping the above facts in mind and knowing when it is getting too much and irrelevant will help you create valuable content for your visitors. This thing will take some time to master but once you do it for your blog and make it a habit there are great rewards to reap.