Blog | Why image-centric eCommerce Design is better for consumers

7th November 2013

Ecommerce design is a demanding skill-set.

Technology, data capabilities and platforms advance at a rapid pace, so the challenge of staying up to date with developments is ever-present to remain competitive. So it’s too easy to forget about one important aspect of eCommerce site design that gets virtually no media coverage at all; the focus on the product that is actually being sold via the site. Which is primarily represented by photography.

In comparison with the evolving scope of eCommerce design, photography fundamentally hasn’t changed, which is possibly why there is no conversation about it – there’s nothing new to say.

Increasing demands by users on websites

on As the capabilities of eCommerce design have exploded, retailers have demanded more and more from their sites, and sophistication of site functionality is naturally the way a site is evaluated.

However, take a look at a site from a customer point of view. They’re not interested in managing stock, capturing data, running reports or integrating marketing into the back end. They want to see the product they are trying to buy; clearly, easily and accurately. They want to understand a brand and what it stands for, they want reassurance that they can trust this virtual supplier with their credit card details, and they want the confidence that the products they are buying will arrive at their front door and won’t be any different from the pictures they’ve seen on screen.

So considering this, photography on an ecommerce site has a very important role, and the customers’ view and accessibility for images needs to be a design priority.

Holding out for a Hero

We think of this as image centric design – an approach that heroes the product, and therefore the images.

Great examples of retailers who take this approach with their site design include John Lewis and The list of retailers who don’t is much, much longer.

When product takes a central role in the site design, then the quality of the image becomes very important too. Although of course, this is out of the control of the site designer, who may well be compromised by a rather uninspiring set of images to drop into the site at the end of the process.

So what should designers pay attention to when they are taking an image centric approach to give customers the best product experience?

Image size is an obvious one, and its easy to say the bigger the better, although the optimum size is really governed by the product that is being sold and the way the product is shown in the image; i.e. is it on its own, or part of a complex room set?

Simple products don’t need to convey much information (For example a mug, or a ream of paper). These are straightforward items and can be understood quite easily by viewers at a relatively small size.

More complex and larger products, and those that are considered more carefully prior to purchase need a different approach. For example curtains. There is a lot of information that a customer will need to understand before they will make a purchase. This includes the way they hang, the general look of a print, the detail of the print or the fabric, the style at the top of the curtain and the length. This amount of information can’t effectively be taken from a single image so a better experience would give the customer an image sequence to view, and the product image page would require larger-sized images to make it easier for viewers to quickly navigate to the products that fit their pre-requisite ideas of what they want to buy.

Effective images give customers accurate, correct and trustworthy information. When commissioning images, retailers need to really think precisely what information their customers need to decide to buy, so they can determine their shot lists.

Putting the product in their hands with great eCommerce photography

One of the least understood aspects of photography is lighting, which is crucial to make a product appear as realistic as possible, to make it ping off the page and look desirable. Poorly lit products appear dull and flat, which then gives the customer a negative impression of the quality and also an inaccurate impression of the way it will look in real life.

One final thing to remember is that if customers don’t like the image or aren’t sure about what they are buying, they’ll abandon the purchase and search elsewhere, so images need to be considered as a powerful asset in terms of how they can influence site, and sales performance.

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About Vedo 

Vedo rich media insights bring clarity to the effect that visual content has on customers and builds greater understanding about their opinions and preferences, to give greater insights into how rich media and visual content bring measurable results.

Our approach focuses on giving customers the best online experience of the products they want to buy, and take a data driven approach to photography, helping retailers how to evaluate the effect of images on sales through UX based testing strategies.

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Adam Pritchard

Founder of this agency and Shopit, Adam has nearly 20 years of digital experience, from the days of getting 3M and Pioneer UK web-friendly, to leading project teams on development and marketing projects for the likes of Tesco, Royal College of Nursing and National Tyres. Secretary of junior football club Winton Wanderers, most of the weekend is spent coaching kids, or reading the Sunday papers with coffee and cake.