While it may not be a flesh-and-blood team member, your website holds great value for your company not only in terms of sales, but also in terms of marketing. And a cohesive “look” plays a role in that.
Take a moment and see what a lovely-to-look-at WordPress site can do for you:
- Impressiveness: Regardless of whether your company solely exists online or has an actual storefront, your website is usually the first “face” your customers and prospects see, so it’s important to make a good impression.
- Visibility: A well-established website gives people the opportunity to meet you before they decide to work with or purchase from you. If you don’t have a website, then you’re allowing their opinion of you to be formulated based on the opinion of others through business review sites and social media commentary.
- Availability: Paul Cookson once said:
Websites promote you 24/7: No employee will do that.And he was right.
- Lead Generation: Actively pursuing leads can take up a lot of your company’s time and money. When a website is done right, it should be converting leads on its own.
- Legitimization: These days it isn’t enough to just have a website—especially if it isn’t regularly updated or modernly designed. A good looking, well-thought-out, and carefully maintained website can help to establish a positive opinion of your brand before anyone even decides to communicate with you directly.
Websites serve a number of other functions, but in terms of helping to establish and bolster your brand’s identity, these are the key takeaways. It’s important to remember that in order to reap all these benefits, you must first have a website. You then need to manage it from an easy-to-use platform like WordPress. And it needs to be extremely well-planned-out—in messaging, in layout, and especially in design.
One of the best ways you can serve your site’s design is by taking advantage of the numerous free image resources out there. That’s what we’ll talk about today in some detail.
Is Your Website a Thing of Beauty?
I strive for two things in design: simplicity and clarity. Great design is born of those two things. – Lindon Leader
Planning out a business website is no different than planning out a brand’s identity:
- What do you do?
- What do you value?
- What is your voice?
- What drives you?
- Why should customers and partners trust you?
Needless to say, there are a lot of serious questions that need to be tackled before one can share their brand with the world—and the same goes for a website.
Now, if you’re reading this, you likely already have a website. You’ve got a logo, you’ve established brand colors, and you’ve written a whole lot of messaging that tells your story and speaks directly to your customers’ pain. But perhaps you’re wondering what more there is you can do. Well, having a strong message and consistent look are good places to start. Your next focus should be on imagery. And contrary to popular belief you don’t necessarily need to shell out a ton of cash to get good looking photos, images, and graphics for your site.
Before we get to the resources, however, let’s look at some important information:
An Examination of the Facts
There are a number of places you can look to for insight on how well your website and business are performing. The number of leads your team converts on a regular basis is one. Google Analytics is another and will allow you to check in on your website’s performance and your visitors’ behavior.
Then there are the surveys and research regularly conducted that can help you get a sense for the current state of affairs in marketing and whether or not you are on-trend. The big topic of discussion these days? Marketing imagery:
In CMO Council’s white paper “From Creativity to Content,” they took a look into how marketing has changed alongside the rise of social media:
- 65% of marketing professionals stated that visuals are key to their brand’s story.
- The majority of those surveyed also believe that marketing will rely more on the use of visuals in the future.
A 2015 report by Adobe investigated users’ website preferences:
- If given 15 minutes to read something online, 66% of those surveyed preferred looking at something beautiful as opposed to something plain in design.
- When visiting a site where images failed to load, 39% left the website.
- When visiting a site where images took too long to load, 39% also indicated they would leave the website.
- When visiting a website that had an unattractive design or a disorganized look, 38% abandoned the website.
Color in Visuals
Conversely, Xerox’s research focused on the positive effect of color in design and photography:
- In terms of sales, colorful business collateral and design sells up to 80% more.
- In terms of brand identity, color also contributes to an increase in recognition by up to 80%.
All of these experts are talking about how varying visual elements play a role in marketing. But what do all these numbers really mean?
If you take a closer look at these research elements, they’re conveying the same key point: visuals improve the user experience (UX). Regardless of what sort of computer or device your website is being viewed on, users respond better to something that is colorful, that works well, and that is easy to follow.
It’s All in the Details
There are three responses to a piece of design – yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for. – Milton Glaser
Attention spans are decreasing the more dependent people become on mobile devices. As of 2013, the average human attention span was estimated to be only eight seconds. So your website design not only needs to really stand out and be executed well, but it also needs a layout and functionality that leads to an ease in UX.
A strategic use of imagery on your website is a great way to achieve a number of those goals all at once. Images can:
- Establish what you do and who your audience is without saying anything.
- Give you an opportunity to demonstrate your professionalism and level of attention to detail.
- Provide visitors with a respite from reading big chunks of text.
- Help lead visitors down through a page or across your website more easily.
Remember: Websites aren’t born beautiful. With the help of a talented designer, you can usually create a really great looking website that will help establish your business as a professional, long-standing, and trusted organization. That being said, hiring a designer means spending more money, so if you already have a website established on WordPress and are looking to cut a few corners, start by improving your visuals.
A Few Tips
In an endless jungle of websites with text-based content, a beautiful image with a lot of space and color can be like walking into a clearing. It’s a relief. – David McCandless
While a great image can do wonders for grabbing a prospect’s attention or establishing your business’s credibility, too many great images or random images that don’t fit well together can undo all of that work just as quickly. Before researching the tools through which you can achieve fantastic looking visuals for your website, take a moment to review these tips:
- Go back to those basic questions you used to establish your brand. Those should guide you in determining what sort of imagery will work for your website—and make sure to maintain a consistent “theme” throughout.
- Use high resolution images. This is important for the UX across all devices. Responsive design often calls for high resolution imagery, so using anything less than that may sacrifice quality on smaller screens.
- Keep the images relevant to your business model and audience. If your site’s visitors can’t relate to the images, they probably won’t take the time to read what you have to say.
- Use unique imagery. If you have the same old stock photos that your competition is using, no one will be able to tell you apart.
- Limit the color palette or try to use monochromatic images. This will help create a unified look to your website and keep the distractions to a minimum.
- Your site’s visuals aren’t just about having the right photos or vector images in place. Take a look at infographics for inspiration on how to integrate text and data into your imagery.
- Don’t be afraid of white space. If you can use three really large and captivating images throughout your home page instead of a collage of 16 photos, do it. Simpler is always better.
- Always obey all copyright and attribution rules related to images. Some may have restrictions for the type of use (editorial vs. commercial) while others require you to pay for the right to use them. Always review before using.
- Stay subscribed to your favorite marketer or marketing company’s blog for news and updates on the latest and greatest in web design trends. These change often, so these experts will help you stay in the know so you can make relevant and timely updates to your site’s design.
There is a lot to remember here in terms of what you should and should not do with your website’s visuals. However, there are many affordable (and free) tools available online to simplify all this.
A List of Free Image Resources to Get You Started
Create your own visual style… let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others. – Orson Welles
You don’t have to be the world’s greatest designer to create visuals for your website. All you need is some thorough knowledge of your brand, perhaps a few sample websites that do a good job of this, and some easy to use and WordPress-compatible tools on your side.
While there are a multitude of free image resources online, the ones listed below have large stocks of imagery available as well as good coverage in terms of subject matter. There are other resources out there but these are some of the best.
Pexels is another great choice for finding high-resolution images to fit your business’s needs. Same rules apply for this: download the image and it’s yours. No attribution or purchase is necessary on most, but do make sure to verify before downloading.
Pixabay is one of the image websites often recommended by marketers. It’s free, easy to use, and has a great selection of images and videos that are royalty free and do not require attribution (meaning you don’t have to pay and you don’t have to give credit to the photographer).
Good web design isn’t just about having great photos or illustrations. Visual elements existing in the background of websites as well and textures can be a great way to add another layer of design without complicating the overall look.
Unsplash has become a popular resource among designers and developers because it’s images are so damn gorgeous. Seriously, check out the latest images. They’re really nice, right?
The site features hundreds of beautiful photos in a variety of styles, from landscapes to product images. Ten new images are uploaded to Unsplash every 10 days. All images on Unsplash are covered under Creative Commons and have no copyright, which means the photographers have dedicated their work to the public domain and waived all rights to the work worldwide under copyright law.
For those of you who have a lot of numbers to highlight on your website—whether it be from research you’ve conducted, for use in infographics, or for showcasing how many partnerships, clients, and projects you have—vector images can help you creatively do that. Images are free from Freepik, but do note that you need to give attribution to the author.
Gratisography is the place to go if you’re looking for quirky images to inject a bit of fun to your site site.
The site offers a free high-resolution collection for use on personal and commercial projects. All images are free of copyright restrictions.
New pictures are added weekly.
picjumbo offers free images for commercial and personal works. The site includes a category listing, which makes it easy to filter the types of images you’re looking for and quickly find what you need.
There is a wide variety of different high resolution images covering food, nature, people, technology and fashion, among other categories.
All photos are free to use, but the author asks for attribution.
Free Design Tools
Sometimes it’s not enough just to have a really cool looking photo. Sometimes you need the right tools to manipulate those photos into what you need.
Canva is a wonderful tool for anyone wanting to create custom images and with little effort. Canva offers a variety of collateral types (from social media and print to web and blog design and more) that help you create new images through the use of free stock photography (make sure the images are labeled “free”) as well as easy to use, customizable templates.
Hubspot regularly releases tips and tricks to help marketers of all levels improve their efforts. Every now and again, they’ll also share a free tool like this and all it requires is a quick sign-up (which you should do anyway to stay attuned to their marketing tips). Calls to action are extremely important for branding as they direct your prospects and current customers to the action you want them to take. With free templates and tips like these, you can elevate your website’s CTA imagery very easily.
As noted in the facts and tips above, colors are very important in web design. While you can spend hours hunting for the right images for your website, you might not be thinking about how all of those colors will work together. With a tool like this, you can upload your main image and find the color palette upon which you can base everything else.
Once all of your images are selected and you have an idea of the colors that are going to work for your palette, you need a tool that will help you easily edit images before you start applying them to your website. BeFunky performs a number of functions so you can give your stock photos some personalization: layering, sizing, touch-ups, color effects, borders, and more.
Free WordPress Plugins
With your images lined up and ready to go, it’s time to set your WordPress website up with the plugins that will make the integration of images into your design much easier. This list is not exhaustive by any means. However, if you do choose to find your own plugins to improve your website’s design, make sure you first investigate the plugin’s ratings, number of ratings, age, features, and ease of use.
Here’s a few plugins to consider:
The first free image resource provided above was Pixabay. Of course, you can peruse the gallery of images they have available on the site or you can use this plugin that allows you to find Pixabay public domain images from within WordPress. Once installed, you can filter search results by image type, as well as horizontal or vertical orientation. Likewise, you can preview images within the paginated search results and upload photos you find directly to the media library with a click.
For those of you who prefer Unsplash stock photos, this plugin works just like the Pixabay one, allowing you to upload Unsplash images directly into your WordPress media library. It also lets you add photos from the plugin page or from within the individual posts and pages you’re editing. This plugin is compatible with several browsers as well.
If you are active on Flickr and have a reserve of images there that you would like to use on your website, this plugin easily integrates your Flickr images into the visual editor toolbar in WordPress. This plugin allows you to search public photos to use or select from your private photo stream. You can insert a link page to the photo on Flickr and the plugins includes lightbox and lightview popups.
Getty Images is synonymous with high-quality photography and is often considered too pricy of an investment in order to gain access. However, with this plugin, you can search through millions of free embeddable images within your WordPress dashboard—all for your editorial purposes.
Finding the right images for your website is an important first step. Making sure those images are properly optimized for viewing and search is an even more important next step. Regardless of whether or not you have an image editor on your computer, YoImages provides you with the in-WordPress functionality to crop and resize your images as well as to integrate important the appropriate SEO tags.
YoImages also has a free stock photo archive you can search through if you’re not finding exactly what you need from the resources above.
When using a lot of high resolution images on your website, site speed and image load time can really slow down. With attention spans dwindling, it’s important to have an image optimization tool that can shrink down your file sizes without sacrificing image quality and keep that site moving fast. Our very own WP Smush is one of the top rated plugins for accomplishing this.
Whether you’re looking to display a photo gallery from a recent event, to showcase your portfolio of work, or to share how large of a team you have complete with headshots and bios, you’ll need an image gallery tool that will help keep all your images displayed, sized, and organized well.
While static banner images seem to be all the rage right now, image sliders have not completely disappeared. For those of you wanting to show off a number of images and give your website some movement, you’ve got to make sure that it’s done with responsive design in mind. This plugin will help you accomplish that.
Free QA Assistance
There is one more tool that every marketer, web designer, developer, and website manager needs: a responsive web design tester. Your website’s visitors are going to view your website on whichever device they prefer. Rather than hope they visit your site on a PC—because that’s what you tested your website’s design and functionality on—use this tool that allows you to cover your bases and QA your website across all major devices and screen sizes.
You’ve spent a lot of time establishing your brand and creating a product or service that will help your customers. Don’t let all that effort go to waste by not taking care of your website—often their first impression of you. Much like how you (and your customers) would frown at one of your sales representatives if they went into a meeting looking disheveled and speaking unprofessionally, you can expect the same response if your website is not properly designed or maintained.
All of the pieces of your site play an important role in demonstrating your professionalism, conveying your interest in taking care of your customers, and showcasing what makes your brand worth investing in. The always-connected, multi-channel audience is going to continue to grow as each year passes, so you need to make sure your website is equipped with all those things that will really wow them.
Since colors and imagery play a big part in the decision-making process when visiting a website, this is the perfect place to start. Invest in free image resources and WordPress plugins that will save you time and money, but still give your brand that high-end, look you need.