The visuals you use on your website serve as an incredibly powerful way to engage your visitors. They’re there to help you communicate more information than you would with just the use of words. They can also help you inspire emotions and actions.
There’s no doubt that visuals are also a great way to provide more interest and break up the information you offer on any given page. But the question is – would illustrations or photos work best for your website? And how can each of them help you achieve your marketing and conversion goals?
Let’s find out.
The most straightforward situation in which you should use photos on your website is when you have specific products to show. Whether you are a large ecommerce store or a small one-product brand, if there is a tangible object you are promoting.
Ideally, you want to capture your product(s) from several angles and, of course, ensure that the quality of your images is as high as possible. Also, be sure that your photos load quickly on both desktop and mobile devices. It will positively impact user experience as well as search engine rankings.
Which photos to use is a question that will entirely depend on:
- your product catalog
- the interests of your users
- the items you are promoting at any given time
Take a look at Sola Wood Flowers. They feature images of different products – those currently on sale and featured product categories – as well as photos describing their wedding kits and customer favorites.
They will, however, regularly change these images, ensuring visitors get to see more of their collection and promoting different aspects of their line.
Illustrations are a great way to illustrate, pun intended, a more or less complex process that you would have more difficulty describing with words. While you should never rely on an image alone, use it to give more meaning to the copy you feature on the website.
Illustrations are great when you’re talking about a step-by-step process or when you need to show a customer what a product does, how it works, or what it can be expected to do. Both abstract and realistic processes or mechanisms can be illustrated with diagrams to great effect.
Let’s take a look at an example to drive this point home. Somnifix has an illustration on their homepage that describes what sleeping with an open mouth does and why it has a negative impact on the quality of your sleep.
It directly speaks to the benefits of their product and makes the information much easier to digest and grasp.
Photos are a great way to elicit all kinds of emotional responses from your audience, especially if these same emotions are shown in the actual photo. In most cases, this will mean that you need to feature humans in them.
Most of the information we communicate to each other comes from non-verbal cues, so an image of two people laughing can be much more impactful than a couple of funny sentences, for example.
Using photos is a great way to establish a deeper connection with your audience and make your brand more relatable and more human. It can help you bridge the divide that naturally exists between you, a business entity, and your first-time customer.
Take a look at Developing a Student. They have used photos to help their visitors identify with the services offered and to showcase how people just like them have already benefited from the brand.
When choosing your photos, make them as relatable as you can. Consider who your buyer personas are, and try to source images that look just like them.
Sometimes you will need to communicate an abstract concept, which will be made much easier with the use of illustrations. There are so many things you may want to say that can’t be described that well with a photo.
You may be talking about the way your product works or describing how it makes your customers feel. You may be offering a service that doesn’t exist in the physical world.
Beacon House offers therapeutic and counseling services, and they’ve chosen to use illustrations on their website. They could have chosen photos of people who are sad, anxious, or troubled, but some of their clients may have trouble identifying emotions correctly and would thus not understand them.
These illustrations are a much better solution. They are able to communicate concepts more effectively, taking into account the specific needs of the brand’s target audience.
Using photos is ultimately the simple and easy solution. You can hire an affordable photographer who will come down and do a shoot for you, or you can purchase stock images from one of the dozens of online marketplaces, so finding the right photos can be very straightforward.
Illustrations should be custom-made if you want them to work and be distinctive enough, which can at times be the more time-consuming process, although it can also be rather affordable.
Also, there is something to be said about the effectiveness of photos. Sometimes a very clean and uncluttered photo hits just the right note. Take a look at Dress Forms USA and their hero image. It’s simple, very understated, but it certainly checks all the boxes. It helps customers identify with the brand, it shows the product, and it does not distract from the rest of the page.
Illustrations can also be a great way to overcome the difficulty of sourcing adequate images. For instance, you may be offering a service that isn’t easy to photograph or that may result in some not-so-pleasant photographs. Think of garbage disposal, for instance.
This is how We Recycle landed on their homepage illustration, which is very vibrant and effective. It manages to show what the brand does and convey a sense of simplicity and efficiency, which is all you need to be hooked into exploring the services further.
Your services don’t have to be particularly unappetizing for you to reach for an illustrative solution. You may just find it easier to imbue an illustration with the kind of messaging you are looking for.
The choice between photos and illustrations can be a simple one if you take some time to consider the interests and needs of your target audience as well as the way you want your brand to be perceived. Don’t make your decision lightly, though. Your visuals carry a lot of meaning, and you want them to hit just the right notes with the majority of your visitors.