The Three Deadly Sins of eCommerce Site Images

Ask any specialist in the field and they will tell you one thing: eCommerce is all about design when it comes to conversions. A snappy, well-engineered site greatly increases the chance of converting a visitor into a consumer. Likewise, a poorly designed online shop will deter clients. Images are one of the key areas that largely determine whether your visitor stays and buys something or closes the tab in disgust. Here’s the top three deadly sins of images in eCommerce design.

Large Size and Poor Optimization

In a world of ever increasing connection speeds and diminishing patience, the importance of having a fast-loading website cannot be underestimated. You can be selling the world’s finest goods, but if your site fails to load within a reasonable time frame (reasonable slowly becoming synonymous with instantly), then your merchandise will fail to find buyers. Nothing better illustrates this than Back in 2006, the retail giant has estimated that for every 100ms increase in page loading times, their revenue shrunk by 1 percent, BartRead says. A second’s delay? That’s 10% revenue just gone.

Images are typically the bulk of a page’s size and can cause even the most well designed page to grind to a halt as the connection struggles to download it. If your site is full of un-optimized images with large file sizes, you are looking at an uphill struggle in the battle for the clients’ attention. How to deal with it?

First, slim down the images. While having large, richly detailed images available on your site is a bonus for clients who want to familiarize themselves with your offer, they should be optional, not mandatory. Instead of full size images scaled down by the page, create separate thumbnails that will load faster and use less space. Don’t forget to use the right format for the job. Large, detailed images will usually benefit from being saved in a compressed JPG format. However, if the images are composed of fairly simple shapes or solid colors, then a PNG or a GIF (depending on their precise shape) are a better choice, as they offer lossless compression, excellent quality, and retain the small file size.

Lack of Context

This sin might sound a little odd. After all, if the image is placed on the page and accompanied by plenty of descriptive text, it has the right context, right?

Not quite. Context means different things to humans and search engines. What you see on the page is not necessarily what the spider (a bot that crawls through web pages and collects them for the search engine) sees when it performs its routines. If you want to see the world through the spider’s eyes, view your page with the images disabled.

A website that provides proper context for the images will display the alt text of the file where it would normally appear, EConsultancy points out. If your site does not show any text, merely esoteric file names, that means your site lacks context.

How to fix it? Ensure that each image on the site has proper alt tags. This step is ignored by a vast majority of eCommerce sites, leading to sub-par SEO performance and lost sales. The alt text should be descriptive and provide the reader (human or otherwise) with a basic understanding of what is in the image. While you’re at it, you should also ensure that the file name of the image is legible to humans and spiders alike. A string of numbers is meaningless. Mahogany-finish-nineteen-century-cabinet.jpg is the exact opposite. A proper file name combined with the right alt text can do wonders for your SEO.

No Narrative

While narrative is usually associated with literature, it is one of the key components of the user experience on your website. Think of your store in terms of the story it tells. Do the images fit in with the atmosphere you want to create? Or do they clash with the rest of the site, aesthetically or thematically? Does the flow of the site provide a good user experience or on the contrary, does it suffer due to stilted connections between the text and the imagery? While integrated platforms like Shopify minimize the risk of this happening, they can only do so much before systemic problems manifest.

Resolving problems in this area is not as simple as it would appear. Most of these are caused by not having a strong core concept driving your eCommerce venture. If you experience this, Growth Spark says, then you should consider re-evaluating and then revamping your site to provide a single, coherent experience. Images are at the core here, as the lighting, colors, even the angle at which the photos representing your wares matter. The devil’s in the details, particularly in eCommerce.

Bottom Line

When it comes to images, it’s an area where it’s extremely easy to make mistakes. Fortunately, these mistakes can be rapidly undone if you know what you are doing and what you want to achieve.

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