Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Perfect Home Page Photos - Part 1

Some tips on making the best use of photos on your site's home page.

In one of my last posts, I talked about what I liked in the way of photos on a university home page. Not just what kinds of photos, but their quality, usage, purpose, what they communicate, whether or not they tell a story, link to a story or say something unique about the campus.

In that spirit, I've decided to put together a list of characteristics of the perfect home page photo implementation.
  1. All photos will be of uniformly superior quality, and taken by professional photographers
  2. The photo space will be large enough to catch and hold the viewer's attention
  3. The photo space will have an interesting and/or dynamic shape, and it will be integrated with the home page's graphic design
  4. All photos will have captions that describe the image and provide context
  5. All photos must communicate something unique about the university. Generic photos of students studying, faculty pointing to a white board, etc., say nothing about the unique nature or character of the institution if left without a context. Play to your strengths; pick out things that make your university unique, like:
    • The natural setting, local community and regional environment
    • The physical plant (building, facilities, labs)
    • Notable faculty (Nobel Prize winners, award winning authors, etc.)
    • Unique research
    • Student accomplishments (sports, academic achievement, other honors and competitions)
  6. Photos should focus on the specific, not the general. For student and faculty accomplishments, the captions/stories should focus on specific, quantifiable accomplishments.
  7. Photos should provide a mix of subject matter; approximately 50% scenic (campus buildings, local environment) and 50% people oriented (faculty, students, research).
  8. Photos should link to stories providing further information on the subject of the photo.
  9. Photos should randomly change with each visit to the home page, or
  10. If an animation is used, viewers should have complete control to stop, go to the next photo or go to the previous photo (see the FSU site).
  11. There should be a sufficient number of different photos to catch the viewer's interest and provide variety.

The perfect home page photo might look something like this (design stolen wholesale from the University of Michigan Web site):

Go to this page and refresh to see different photos. Note that I worked with the photos I had; many other potentially better possibilities exist.

In my next post, I'll talk in more detail about the photos I selected and why.

1 comment:

Dimitri Glazkov said...

You know, this is good stuff, although I am a bit negatively biased on using so much space with something that most of the frequent users will likely ignore. I wrote about it here:


I'd love to do some user testing on this and see how much of this photo content is actually retained and paid attention to by the return/frequent visitors.