With millions of websites competing for attention, web designers continue to look for an effective formula to guide their designs. And if these designs include decorative photos, stock images and fictional lovely people, forget it. That’s visual bloat and it annoys web visitors. Eye-tracking research has shown that web visitors ignore people photos unless they are of real people. If the photo is of the website’s owner or the owner’s dog, visitors’ eyes will pause longer than they would, if the photos are generic with anonymous cute people. Web visitors also prefer detailed product photos so they can evaluate all angles before committing to the product. Additionally, don’t use images when clever and descriptive copy will do – even if these are real images. Users want information not cuteness.
Such are the findings of Jakob Nielsen, known as the usability guru for his pronouncements about the most user-friendly web designs. More than a decade ago, Nielsen left his job at Sun Microsystems to pursue the “science” of usability. In his view, a company presenting its image online would do well to include a page of employees thumbnail photos, for example, because visitors tend to spend time checking out real people. On the other hand, ads for television screens on Amazon tended to have generic photos, which were largely ignored by users. Nielsen’s research shows that visitors spent 18 percent of their time viewing the images while the other 82 percent was spent on the copy. “Visual fluff,” no matter how cute, doesn’t gain any new user-friends. So if you include images on your website, they should pack as much information as possible.
The image shows a heatmap of eye tracking.