The power of images

Space Elevator GEO Station

Space Elevator GEO Station (Photo credit: FlyingSinger)

The internet is mostly driven by text. We’ve made great strides to add images, videos, and audio to the web, but most web pages are still text-driven. Blog posts, discussion forums, navigation, news articles, tweets, Facebook status updates…

Despite that, many users read very little of the text on most webpages. Rather than reading, we scan for the first thing that looks like the next step towards accomplishing our goal. We look for bolded and emphasized words. We look for headers, sections, and we scan. TL;DR is a popular acronym for this very reason.

Images can often go where text currently resides. For example, rather than Netflix presenting a Google-style search, they choose to simply show images of the disc cases and let users hover to see more textual details. This pattern is becoming more and more common.

The reason is that while we’re a bit too lazy to read text, we love images. Images go to the spatial processing part of our brain, which allows for more bandwidth and parallel processing. This means we can process much more information more quickly with images than with text.

Images are great for setting the mood and environment and giving users a quicker way to scan through collections. One popular technique is to begin a search based on images, then as the results filter down, to start add more textual details for comparisons.

Simple images can be just as effective as complex photography. Beautiful photography will always have its place, but often even simple line drawings are highly effective to communicate the data.

Where have you opted for images over text? Let us know in the comments!