Get an image makeover in 2014

The imagery you use online says more than you might expect. An image may be the first thing someone notices when landing on a page, so they play a key role in making a good (or bad) first impression.

Here are three tips to help you assess the imagery on your site and see if you need to tweak it, update it or create something new.

Tip 1: Avoid obvious stock photos

We’ve all seen them: handsome business people shaking hands in a spotless white room. Women laughing while eating salad. Babies using computers for some reason. Clichéd stock photos are rife on the web, so much so that they have their own meme.

We’ve learnt that these images are fake- not real customers, users or staff. So go through your key pages and check you don’t use any clichéd stock images. If you do, try to replace them. And if you have to use stock photography, Paul Boag has some great tips for doing so effectively. Make this the year you start using images that really mean something.

Tip 2: Make your imagery appropriate

It’s not just stock photography. People are extremely proficient when it comes to a assessing imagery on the web, according to this study by Jakob Nielsen. If it looks like an ad, or like something that’s been dropped in to fill a space, users will ignore it. If it looks useful or interesting (think real people and product photos), they’ll pay attention. Good or bad, the imagery you use will leave an impression on users, so take the time to make sure it’s a good one. You can read more about this at 52 Weeks Of UX.

Tip 3: Get the resolution right

A common problem with using imagery on the web is getting the resolution and size right. The larger the image, the longer it takes to download (a problem for people with slow connections or mobile devices), but the smaller the image the more pixelated it will appear when stretched: fuzzy images look cheap and unprofessional. inSquare Media’s article on why you should resize your images is a useful introduction to getting the balance right.

This post originally appeared on Together We’re Better.

Put your content on a diet

In light of the fact that an appreciable number of us utilise excessive words in our content, it is incumbent upon us to take action to edit our content as a means of facilitating a better experience for our users.

Or, to put it more simply:

Because many of us use too many words in our copywriting we should edit it to help our users.

Or maybe just:

We use too many words. We should use fewer.

Unless we’re reading for pleasure, we tend to scan web pages. One study found that users read an average of 20% of the words on a page. Put another way that’s roughly one sentence in every five, so it’s vital we make every word count.

Here are my favourite tips for slimming down your content:

Tip 1: Ditch the jargon

Take a leaf out of the GOV.UK book and write in plain English. The only thing that should be ‘delivered’ are pizzas and with a bit of luck we should only be ‘going forward’ if we’re on the train.

Tip 2: Lose the tired language

Find alternatives to the cliched phrases I used at the start of this post. The University of Texas’ collection of pet peeves and this list of plain text substitutions for wordy phrases are both great resources.

Tip 3: Remember the power of words

Trimming your content shouldn’t be a negative experience. Well-written headlines can gain users’ attention more effectively than images (just remember to use this power for good- BBC News does headlines well without resorting to clickbait).

Tip 4: Get inspired

Justin Jackson’s simple page proves you don’t need fancy bells and whistles if you write well. David Ogilvy’s ‘How To Write’ memo is a concise guide to good writing. Roy Peter Clark has written some excellent practical guides to writing well. His latest, ‘How To Write Short’, looks at writing in the internet age. Ginny Redish’s ‘Letting Go Of The Words’ and Strunk and White’s classic ‘The Elements Of Style’ also come highly recommended.

This post originally appeared on Together We’re Better.