The Vanguard View: Insight for Association Websites

Engage an Convert: Association Website Graphics & Photos Create Member Engagement

Posted by Ray van Hilst on Thu, Aug 28, 2014


This is the last post in a series based on the “5 Website Improvements to Make in 5 Minutes (or Less)” that I co-presented with Maggie McGary at the ASAE Membership, Marketing and Communications Conference in June 2014. Each post covers one of the elements we discussed in more detail and today’s topic is how Graphics & Photos Engage Users. 



First and Foremost: Grab Users' Attention

As we established in previous posts, visual content is more important now than ever. Whereas sites would employ blocks of text for maximum keyword coverage (or overkill) in the past, now less is more: give your users all the words you need to get your message across, but be sure to include plenty of visual media.

Users pay close attention to photos and other images that contain relevant information. Eye-tracking studies show a gap in how users view website images:

  • Big Images that are clearly decorative, feel-good pieces are totally ignored. These would be the standard stock photos we've all seen again and again. You know the ones: a group of smiling people in smart suits in a fancy office building, an exact divide between the number of males and females, presenting a diverse array of ages. These are obviously staged and anyone who's visited enough websites will recognize them when they see them.

  • Images of products and real people are treated as important content and scrutinized. Why? Because they're genuine. Because they're original. Because they show you've given your site more consideration than simply pulling free stock images. It makes perfect sense, too – a user's come to your site to see what you offer, what you can give them. So show them.

Think Visually About Your Website’s Content

So, if users pay more attention to relevant, unique images than to stiff text and stages images, how should you arrange your images on a page? The key is to use both words and pictures in harmonious moderation – give users enough to read and look at to convey the message of who you are and what you offer. Combine your words with images – overlay a few lines of text on a striking picture, or arrange content in boxes with images and words side by side.

What images should you actually show on your association website?

There are many great sources for engaging photos to use on your

  • Leadership photos
  • Member photos
  • Real Events
  • Real industries
  • Staff
  • Products

All of these cement the idea that you are a real company, with real people, and real members. Show users your community. Show them your products. Even if your images don't turn out as crisp and clear as all those stock photos, users are more likely to appreciate a genuine approach over a fake one.

Not that all stock images are bad, of course. There are some terrific free photos available – just try to avoid the same 'grey-haired business man' or 'pretty young call centre lady' images we've all seen a thousand times before.

Where to get great images?

You can get these pictures from:

  • Members
  • Custom
  • Creative Commons
  • Stock (as long as they're good and relatively fresh)

Spend some time looking at your competitors' sites (that includes other associations and your for-profit competitors). Pick out aspects you like and don't like. Take inspiration and jettison ideas you know won't work for you. Reach out to members, to valued customers, and to photography sites for visual materials you can use to put a unique stamp on your site.

Your users will notice.

For more about using images in your website, check out these blog posts:

For more from this series of posts, here are links to the rest of the posts in this series:

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