A screenshot of the citi website showing a photo of people shaking hands

Photo from User Interface Engineering

During my trawl of the web to find more on the topic this is one article that I found really useful. Jared talks about how web graphics help, and when they don’t and he makes some great points on the use of photos.

He makes a great distinction between the two main types of photos that you commonly see used on websites, ‘content’ and ‘ornamental’ photos.

'Content' photos are useful photos and they add something of value to the page. Examples of content photos include product photos that help customers to choose the right product for them.

There are many different types of content photo that you can use such as photos that help people to read, learn, remember, make decisions and focus their attention. I am pulling these together in a poster with Susan Weinschenk at this years UPA conference, that explains the psychological and UX principles behind what makes these types of content photos so effective. I will share the poster here once its finished! UPDATE! Our poster now available to download.

'Ornamental' photos can be considered as filler content. They add nothing of direct value to a page other than potentially splitting up large chunks of content. Cheesy stock  photography often lurks here, beware!

So before you add a photo to your page, consider what its job is. Is it a ‘content’ photo or an ‘ornamental’ photo? Is it necessary? What value does it add to the user or to the site owner?

A blog celebrating photos, the unsung heroes of great user experience design, by James Chudley (@chudders)

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