Web Site Development Pictures versus Words

Is A Picture Really Worth A Thousand Words?

The great debate: how much copy you should have on a site, particularly on the home page?

Is a picture is worth a thousand words - and therefore images, not a lot of text, should be the main thrust of your home page? Or do words have more power to capture a visitor's attention and compel them to buy - meaning we should aim for powerful copy? Do search engines prefer words verus images? Do we place form over function?

A graphic designers, natural inclination is to create graphically-rich, light text websites. Since they are focused on what a site looks like visually, they like to use impressive images, bold splashes of color all over the page, and not very much copy. The end result is often an attractive, visually-appealing site, with very few words.

However, we've learned that this inclination must be balanced with the cold hard reality: what appeals to a designer is not necessarily the same as what visitors need.

The problem with many websites that don't have any copy is that they fail to quickly and effectively communicate the three points that all business websites must get across: You must explain what your company does, what the benefits your business are, and why prospective customers should purchase from you or visit your location.

These important pieces of information can only be conveyed obliquely, through images. While pictures are often very useful in reinforcing a message, it's difficult to succinctly drive home these important points solely through images.

On your website, visitors want specifics, and they want them quickly. They want you to tell them exactly what you can do for them, and they want to know right now. We must specifically state what you do and explain how your destination, product or service is going to make your customers' lives better. You have to spell out why people should buy from you versus your competitors.

Particularly on a home page, we must catch a visitor's attention and give them a reason to stay on your site. If you don't do this immediately, they'll be gone.

It's important to remember that the web revolves around information. People use the web to find out what they need to know, and were they want to go. That almost always means they are looking for text. They want explanations, answers, reasons, and motivation.

We believe that pictures and images enhance a website, and quality images are of critical importance, but they should be used to provide a tasteful, professional frame for your copy, not replace it.

Web users are notorious for having short attention spans and not wanting to read large amounts of copy. However, the problem is that most of the copy on websites today is vague and not enticing. It's focused on the company rather than the customer. So it should be no surprise that visitors avoid reading it.

The solution does not lie in eliminating text-based communication; it means we have to work harder to capture interest with copy. People DO read copy that catches their attention.

If visitors are met with paragraphs that are focused on them, that are rich with benefits, and that are formatted in easy-to-read chunks, they are much more likely to be drawn in and to act on your offer.

Hence, we don't focus strictly on graphics, quality powerful copy is at least as important.

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