Photos are the unsung heroes of effective communication.
If a picture paints a thousand words you need to be sure that they are painting the right words in the minds of the people who view them.
Particularly if those people are your potential customers.
I’ve been on a mission to improve the effectiveness of photos since I wrote ‘Usability of Web Photos‘ in 2016.
When writing the book I created an evaluation framework for people to use to evaluate the effectiveness of their own photos.
The framework is based on the theory of rhetoric, the art of effective and persuasive communication.
It is designed to help you work out if your photos are helping to elicit the response you intended them to from the people who view them.
You can use it like a heuristic evaluation or to help guide qualitative research sessions.
Here’s an example from UXMagazine where I use it to evaluate some holiday accommodation photos.
Best of luck with it and let me know how you get on via @chudders
Photo Evaluation Framework
1. Legibility and credibility
Can you clearly see the content of the photo? (e.g. Focus, size, composition, exposure, crop etc)
- Focus : Are the important elements of the photo in focus? Does all of the photo need to be in focus to communicate its message?
- Composition: Has the composition been used effectively to draw attention to the relevant part of the photo and to create an aesthetically pleasing image? Would the photo be more effective if it was cropped in a different way?
- Exposure: Is the exposure appropriate and are the key subjects of the photo correctly exposed?
- Quality: Is the photo legible enough to see the important details?
- Size: Is the physical size of the photo appropriate? Does the size make the subject of the photo clear enough?
Do the photos look credible? – (e.g. Does they look professional? Do they suit the brand? Are they appropriate and relevant?
- Professionally shot: Do the photos look like they have been taken by a professional? Is this important given the context of what you are evaluating?
- Brand alignment: Are they the kind of photos you would expect to see from this brand?
- Appropriateness: Are the photos appropriate given the context within which they will be viewed?
- Believable: To what extent have the photos been manipulated? Does this affect the credibility of what they depict or the message they convey?
- Relevance: is the photo relevant to the content that it accompanies?
2. What message/s do the photos communicate?
What does the business or product owner want the photo/s to communicate? e.g. ‘Look how spacious our hotel rooms are’
What messages should the photo/s communicate to meet user needs? e.g. ‘I wonder if that hotel room is worth £150 per night?’
What messages do the photo/s actually communicate to users? e.g. ‘That room looks tiny, it’s not worth £150 per night!’
3. Usefulness and effectiveness
Do the photo/s result in the desired emotional response? e.g. Is the photo funny? Does it make me want that thing? Does it have a calming effect?
- Desire: Does the photo represent something in an attractive way?
- Aspiration: Does the photo communicate how a product may fit into someone’s life or help them to live the lifestyle they aspire to?
- Aesthetics: Is it pleasing to look at?
- Calm: Does the photo create a calming effect?
- Others’ emotions: Does the content of the photo result in a direct emotional response from the viewer (for example, are people in the photo smiling, frowning or angry)?
- Entertainment: Is the photo funny? Is it intended to entertain the viewer?
Do the photo/s help the user with their task? e.g. Does the photo serve a purpose or is it really just ornamental?
- Useful: Does the photo serve a purpose or is it just ornamental?
- Educational: Does the photo teach something or provoke thought about a subject in a different way?
- Helpful: Does the photo help users with their tasks? Does it prevent them getting lost? Does it answer their questions or help them to make the right choice?
- Instructional: Does the photo show someone how to do something?
- Constructive: Does the photo help to mitigate a user anxiety? Does it answer a typical question or concern?
- Prevent errors: Does the photo help users to avoid making mistakes?
- Recognition over recall: Does the photo aid recognition to save people having to remember things?
- Communicative: Does the photo communicate its intended message effectively?
- Global suitability: Will the photo mean the same in different countries or cultures? Might it offend people from other cultures?
- Complexity: Does the photo effectively convey something that would be difficult to put into words?
Will the photo/s influence the behaviour of the user in the way you intended? e.g. Does the photo have the desired effect it was designed to have?
- Gaze direction: Should the people in the photos be looking towards other elements on the page or is it more appropriate for them to be looking back at the user? Service related websites benefit from eye contact with users, whereas product sites may benefit from gaze being diverted towards specific offers or buy buttons.
- Prompting an action: Is the photo designed to prompt action such as to donate to a worthy cause? Do the contents of the photo encourage this behaviour? Does the photo encourage users to buy or to make a decision?
- Changing opinions: Will the photo help to change our point of view?
- Creating desire: Does the photo make its contents (and thereby the site’s products and services) desirable?
- Sharing with others: Will the photo encourage the sharing of content with others?
- Perception: Will the user attribute a particular quality to a brand having seen the image, such as quality, craftsmanship and heritage?
- Message: Does the photo communicate the message to people that is intended?
More photo UX related goodness :
- “Evaluating the Usability of Web Photos“, UXMagazine, 2013
- “How To Run A User Centred Photoshoot“, Medium, 2016
- “User Experience Problems with Responsive Photos“, cxpartners blog, 2012
- “How to Use Photos to Sell More Online“, Smashing Magazine, 2010
- “10 Ways you Can Use Photos to Improve the User Experience“, cxpartners blog, 2010