Website redesign projects often begin with phrases like “our website looks generic”, or “we hate our site, it looks like a template,” or “our website does not convey the image of our firm.” The answer to all of these problems is imagery. When your website uses generic images, your website looks generic. Maybe you have a fancy layout, or a tricky animated slideshow, or messaging and copywriting that you have slaved over, but none of these will survive the malignant tumor of horrible images.

All stock photos are not generic

Using stock photos can be a cost effective way of adding some imagery and color to your website. It is even possible to find stock photos that are not as generic as you might think. This usually requires a bit of extra time and determination when searching. Search terms are also a cornerstone of finding unique imagery and should continue to be refined as you narrow your definition throughout your search. When searching for “lawyer” or “legal system” you can expect to find a generic batch of gavels and law books, whereas when searching for “compassionate professional” or “immigrant family in courtroom” would likely yield more specific results.

People Ignore Generic Imagery

Bad imagery is not only a bad practice in theory, research has now shown that people specifically ignore them. Eye tracking studies by Jakob Nielsen, considered to be “the world’s leading expert on website usability” by US News and World Report, have recently shown that “’big feel-good images that are purely decorative’ are mostly ignored online, while stock photos or generic people are also intentionally disregarded. In contrast, when users know that a picture of a person is real they will engage with the image for extended periods of time.”

He concludes with advice to: “Invest in good photo shoots: a great photographer can add a fortune to your Web site’s business value.”

Imagery Inspiration

When considering the imagery for your website, invest time in defining your goals. Review your firm’s mission statement, consider your target client, and brainstorm the words that convey their needs. This should not include handcuffs, police tape, or sad faces; there is a difference between their current emotional state and their desired emotional state and you should focus on the latter. Present your firm as a resource for their needs, a refuge from their problems, and experts in their issues.

(image: Many identical businessmen clones from Shutterstock)