Tips for using images to enhance your website

Images are a no-brainer for any webmaster, but don't overlook these important points.

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To attract today’s customers, every business needs an attractive, brand-enhancing website. Whether the site is designed by internal employees or an outside firm, as an IT department you may be brought in as an advisor. Without the right planning on the front end, you may find yourself answering questions about issues at the server level, even when problems have everything to do with design.

Complicating matters is today’s attention to image-based website content. A business can’t merely win customers over with text. Visitors have to be wowed with eye-catching visuals that compel them to learn more. It’s important that you help your marketing and sales departments understand, however, that images can create a real problem for your own server traffic. Here are a few things to remember if you’re asked to sit in on the website design committee.

Being legal is essential

If your teams plan to incorporate images into your website design, it’s important to understand the copyright laws pertaining to those images. A commercial site faces pressure to ensure that each image has been obtained legally and attributed to the proper source. While there are free high-quality images available, you may want to purchase a professional picture for your landing page, then find free images for other sections of your site.

Most businesses today incorporate a regularly-updated blog, as well. Images are equally important for this section of your site, but you’ll likely want to find free pictures to avoid the daily cost adding up. There are numerous sources for both free and paid images, but your teams need to understand the importance of following attribution requirements with each image they choose, paid or not.

Reduce load time

The biggest complaint IT departments usually hear relates to page load times. When customers call or email to let employees know that their website takes too long to load, those employees often head straight to IT. They’ll assume the slowdown is connected to the server somehow and turn it over to IT to fix. When equipped with the right information, IT departments can quickly turn it back to the design itself, letting employees know what needs to be repaired. A speed test can provide you the backup you need to demonstrate to those team members that the issue is connected to page design, not server bottlenecks.

Images are often the number one culprit when it comes to page load speeds, especially if a business has packed each page with multiple high-resolution images. Point your teams to WordPress plug-ins that can help. That may mean collecting multiple images into a slideshow or using a tool that caches images to keep them from loading anew every time a customer comes to your site.

For IT professionals, keeping systems safe is top priority. While there’s only a remote possibility the images your site designers choose will contain malicious code, it’s important to be aware of the potential. Advise your designers to use photos from known sources like the ones linked above and hope they comply. While it’s unlikely the photo itself will do damage to your visitors’ devices, if malware already exists on a customer’s computer, it may provide the code necessary to communicate with that software.

If you’re hosting your business’s website internally, make sure you have malware protection in place to keep your network safe. If, like many businesses, your company has chosen to pay a third-party hosting provider to maintain your site, be sure you’re getting that protection as part of your provided services. It’s also important to regularly monitor your site to ensure you don’t have a virus. There are free malware scanners that let you enter your site’s URL and get instant feedback on whether or not your site has an issue.

Images are important to engaging visitors to your website. When customers like what they see, they’re more likely to stay on your page and learn more. But as an IT team within a company, it’s important to know the issues images bring to be able to intelligently answer questions and provide guidance. At the very least, you’ll be able to keep your employer safe from legal action by advising your employees against using copyrighted images without paying.

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