They say a picture can say 1000 words…
Images are a vital part of web design today, adding a vibrancy and customer engagement to websites that can’t be rivaled by plain text. Sourcing quality images can be tough, though, and there are many considerations that are important to keep in mind before popping a pic on your page. We are here to give you a crash course on the dos and don’ts of web images that will have you jazzing up your tired pages in no time.
Let’s start with the basics: image formats. There are three main formats for web images: JPG, GIF, and PNG.
- JPG This is a great image format that produces good quality images in a reasonable file size. Make sure you select a higher quality output setting when saving in graphics editing software, since JPGs can produce unsightly rectangular shapes, known as artifacts, when they are compressed too low.
- GIF Although GIFs are not used as much as JPG and PNG files, they have gained popularity recently for their ability to save multiple frames in one file, therefore giving the appearance of a small video file when displayed in succession, known as an animated GIF.
- PNG This format has gained traction in recent years. The big draw for PNG files is their ability to provide different levels of transparency within the image; different parts of the image can show part or all of what’s behind the image, depending on the transparency level that is chosen; or a background can be made entirely transparent (marked by white and gray check boxes) to weave itself into the digital threads of a page.
Next, let’s talk about trademarks and copyrights. Online software is better and more vigilant than ever at recognizing images that have copyrights, auto-scanning images to make sure they are allowed for public distribution. Last year I attempted to upload an image onto a t-shirt printing website, not realizing that it was a screenshot from a Disney movie, and the website immediately recognized the image and prohibited me from using it. Lawyer speak can get a little hairy, so I won’t get into the gray areas between when it’s safe to use an image or not. To keep things simple, use this as a general rule: if you aren’t certain that you have express permission to use an image, don’t use it. It’s not worth the potential ramifications if you’re caught violating a trademark or a copyright.
When it comes to finding images for your site, the online resources are nearly endless. From Google Images to professional photographers to digital image websites, stock images are in great supply; but keep in mind that the better and more exclusive images get, the higher the price tag. If you want to keep the cost down, there are plenty of free image sites that you can use. Here are three of our favorites:
IM Free This site has loads of high quality photographs with a modern, natural feel that are free for commercial use. Most images just require attribution to the creator.
Unsplash This is, again, a site that has hundreds of very high quality images, all available to download and use for free. It updates daily with 10 new images, so there is always a fresh supply to choose from.
Open Clipart If cartoon images are what you’re after, this site offers both simple and complex shapes and cartoon clipart images for unlimited commercial use.
If you are looking for something more specific and can’t find it anywhere online, amateur photographers are in great supply and are always happy for some extra business. If you want to keep your budget low, check in at your local photography school to see if any students would be willing to work with you to gain experience and expand their portfolio – you can get curated images for free, tailored to what your site needs.
Images can add color and life to your website, increase site traffic and improve SEO, and give a professional edge to your pages. Utilize images wisely and the benefits are sure to satisfy.