Website Graphics: How Far Should You Go?

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From cars, to houses, to people, research clearly shows that humans respond more positively to things they find aesthetically pleasing. There is no question websites benefit from a professional-looking visual appearance. This helps build credibility and support brand-recognition.

However, can you go too far with website graphics? You bet you can!

I can’t count the number of websites I have seen that are suffering from a graphics-overdose. And the irony here is twofold:

  • Including tons of graphics is one the one of the best ways to blow your website budget. More graphics usually equals more money.
  • Over-spending on graphics usually means that other aspects of website design may be neglected or cut from the project… and these other aspects may have a greater impact on making your website a success than the graphics do.

Signs you may be going overboard

  • The website takes a long time to load.
  • Graphics files consume more space than text files. The more graphics you have on a page, the longer it will take for browsers to render the page. And if Flash and video is present, it will take longer yet. Generally, more graphics means slower performance.
  • Having slow page load times is cause for concern. Research shows that if a web page takes too long to load, people will become impatient and abandon the page. Remember, the competition is only one click away.
  • The website design is based mostly on photos, and other graphics.
  • Websites typically serve as a promotional tool. As a result most website owners hope their websites will place well in the search results of various search engines like Google. Placing well means the website gets some free advertising and often benefits from increased site traffic.
  • However, what many people may not know is that search engines cannot ‘read’ graphics. The search engines only understand text. If a website consists mostly of photos and other graphics, the search engines are more likely to give the website a lower ranking.
  • The website includes lots of special effects.
  • Contrary to popular belief some special effects — like ticker tapes and things blink on and off — can do more to damage the usability of your site than to help it.
  • Research shows that blinking or flashing effects tend to annoy people. Rather than reading the content in the blinking/flashing area, people tend to intentionally ignore the area, because the flashing is annoying.
  • The website visual design and the target customers have little in common.
  • One company I dealt with told me they already had a great website. The website was written completely in Flash, and I must state openly that it was one cool-looking site. However, the site reminded me of the video games my 10 year-old nephew loves so much. The problem with that was that this company`s target customer was a mature woman between the ages of 35 to 55. The company spent big dollars on a visual design that was inappropriate for their customers.

Is it ever a good idea to go nuts with graphics? Well, probably the best answer is, “It depends”. The type of products and services you offer, plus the nature of your target customer should dictate the tone of your site’s visual design.

For example, you might expect the website of a rock ‘n roll band to be off-the-hinges, with lots of photos and video. However, the website for a dry-cleaning company certainly can do without groovy animation effects, and needs to focus instead on providing a location map, stores hours, coupons, etc.

The Bottom Line

If you are wondering how many graphics to include in your website consider this:

Never forget why people decide to visit your site.

Whether a website represents a musician, an auto service center or a business consultant, people visit websites because they are looking for something. A well-organized site, useful content and good navigation will always serve you well.

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