When we talk about “content,” we mostly talk about the words. We focus on headlines and calls to action, product descriptions and “About Us” pages, brand voice and social media personality. But very rarely do we pay attention to the other content on your site: photos, videos, audio and graphics.
Data shows us that these elements (especially images and graphics) are the first thing most users notice when they land on a page, but they’re often overlooked in a site’s content strategy.
As an amateur photographer, I pay a lot of attention to product images online. For the most part, there are two types of product photos: Great and Terrible.
Okay, that’s a little harsh. Let me rephrase that into something a little more meaningful for what we’re doing, like: Helpful and Not Helpful.
User testing shows a high importance for photos on websites, but not just any photos. Users are savvier today than ever before, and they’re surprisingly good at ignoring photos that don’t add value to their online experience.
Users can quickly identify images that don’t help them meet their needs, and then ignore them. Decorative filler, irrelevant stock images and poor quality photographs don’t just take up valuable space, they can actually frustrate users and drive them away from your site.
Quality photography is more important for ecommerce sites than almost any other kind of site, because online shoppers can’t touch, feel, try on or try out your products. If you want to appeal to buyers and get them excited about your products, invest in high-quality, high-resolution photography.
Here are some tips for creating high quality product photos:
- Show what’s important: Highlight important details and differences in products.
- Change the angle: Photograph products from multiple angles for better perception.
- Get close: Use close-ups to show textures, patterns and materials.
- Give perspective: Use other objects to provide a sense of size.
- Use action shots: Show the product being used or worn by real people.
- Showcase all the options: Provide images for all available colors and options.
As for resolution, when users click to enlarge a product photo, make it worth their while. There are no hard and fast rules for image size, but try to make your original photos at least 20% larger than the final display image size. Check out this knowledge base article for great tips on adding product photos in your Volusion store.
And remember, your products don’t have to be tools or toys to benefit from “action shots.” Check out Nissa Jewelry’s Lookbook for a great example of how product photos can inform and inspire customers in any retail segment.
As connection speeds increase, video is becoming more commonplace throughout the web, especially in ecommerce. Recent reports cite increased purchase intent, boosts in traffic and higher conversions for online retailers that include product videos. But don’t add a video just for the sake of video. As with product images, users can quickly identify whether it is meaningful or fluff, and they’ll respond accordingly.
Videos can be especially helpful for showcasing products in action. As our own Lauren Hill explains in 3 Easy Ways to Engage Your Customers with Video, “Customers want to know how a product works, so show them with video. Put your product into motion by demonstrating its functionality, features and benefits.”
For example, if you sell woodworking tools, you could create an educational series showing customers how to build furniture or toys using your tools. Or, if you sell auto parts, you can share tips on maintenance and common repairs. Using product videos in this way not only shows your items in action, it creates a great opportunity to generate traffic through search and social sharing.
Volusion customer, Kammok, uses this elegantly simple video to show customers how to set up their ROO camping hammock. But this is more than an instructional video, it also takes place in a stunning, natural setting, showing potential customers just how quickly they can get set up, and how comfortable the ROO is once you’re in it–all great selling points for the Kammok brand.
You can also use video for product testimonials and reviews. Whether you create them yourself or ask your customers to provide their own, testimonial and product review videos can help potential customers get a better idea of how your product works and what makes it unique. Check out this heartwarming video from an AllDogBoots customer, showing how their product helped the customer’s 13-year-old Lab get around the house better.
When creating video for your site, keep the following tips in mind:
- Don’t skimp on quality: Blurry, choppy video doesn’t make a good impression, no matter how great your products, so use high quality equipment so your products look their best.
- Pay attention to sound: Is there a noisy highway, AC unit or coworker in the background? If so, move somewhere quiet so your audience can hear what you’re saying.
- Go slow and steady: Don’t pan, tilt or move around your camera while shooting (they call that “firehosing”). Put the camera on a tripod and keep all movements slow and steady.
- Share! Once you’ve produced a great video, share it on YouTube, social media and anywhere else you think potential customers will find it helpful.
You can use a wide range of graphical elements–icons, illustrations, charts and more–for informational, instructional and stylistic reasons.
Graphic design elements like stylized arrows, buttons and decorative elements can direct shoppers to important information and add personality to your store, but too many can also clutter the site and turn away customers. Be careful not to overload your site with too many decorations or icons, or they’ll all blend together, making it harder to buy your products.
Sometimes illustrations and diagrams can provide a better understanding of products than photographs or videos. Illustrations can be especially helpful for assembly instructions, parts diagrams and product manuals. While these elements may not be as attractive as a professional product photo, many buyers find them helpful when making a purchase decision, so you may consider linking them on your product pages.
Similarly, you may also consider creating charts or graphs to represent complex product data, such as energy usage, output or other technical specifications. Just as in the business world, these visualizations can help customers quickly understand complex information and compare technical details.
Here are some tips for graphics and illustrations on your site:
- Keep to your style: If you’re including graphical design elements on your site, make sure they fit your site’s overall design, in color, size and personality.
- Emphasize what matters: If you’re creating illustrations and diagrams, focus on what’s most important. Cluttered illustrations are hard to read.
- Make them available: If there are helpful illustrations or diagrams in the product literature, consider sharing them with potential customers before purchase. Or even better, let them download the whole manual.
Audio has long been one of the most popular forms of multimedia on the web. With their smaller file size and wide compatibility, adding audio files to your site is a great way to include useful and entertaining media without compromising speed and usability.
And speaking of usability, audio files are also a great way to include product descriptions and company info that are accessible to visually impaired users.
You can also use audio to supplement your descriptions, with more in-depth information, reviews and testimonials. Obviously, if you sell music or audio recordings, offering previews or sample tracks is a great way to increase your sales. But audio can also help with other products, like book excerpts, instructional information and even entertaining discussions, interviews or testimonials
When producing and sharing audio on your site, consider the following tips:
- Pay attention to the background: Just like with video, you’ll be surprised how much background noise makes it into an audio file. Go somewhere quiet, and use a good microphone.
- Write out a script: If you’re talking about your product or your store, write a script beforehand. A polished script helps you sound more professional and ensures you don’t leave out any important details.
- Keep it small: Use MP3s instead of WAV files or other media formats to keep the file size down and to maximize compatibility.
It’s Not (Just) the Words They Want to Hear from You
With so much time spent on written site content, it’s important not to overlook all the other things your site “contains.”
Especially in ecommerce, visual content like photography, video and illustrations can go a long way towards making your products more real for your customers. And the more your customers can visualize your product and picture themselves having or using it, the more likely they are to buy it.
So when you’re creating content for your site, consider the details that make you excited about your products. Then put yourself in your customers’ shoes and think about the medium that communicates that information the best–it’s not always with words.
-Clay Delk, Senior Content Strategist, Volusion
This post is part of our Method & Message series by Clay Delk, Sr. Content Strategist at Volusion. Check back every other Wednesday for the latest discussions on content, context and commerce on the web.