How Many Images is Too Many?

Let’s face it, images and pictures are an essential part of any good website. They give the website owner an opportunity to share visual examples of their product (or work if they’re a service-based company) and they help visitors better connect with their brand. At the same time, high-quality images can make an okay site look outstanding, and poor quality images can make a  great site look terrible.

At the end of the day though, the number one question we’re often answering or advising our clients on is “how many images should I include in the gallery (or portfolio) of my site?” While the optimal number of images included in a site depends on the nature of the business, it’s important to understand that too many images can be just as bad as not enough.

Not enough images is pretty self-explanatory, as visitors to your site will be frustrated that they’re not able to view any good examples of your product or work. However, too many images can be equally frustrating, as A) it can significantly slow the load time of your website, and B) it can overwhelm visitors, both of which will ultimately result in a poor user experience, a high bounce rate, and a high probability of lower rankings in relative search results.

The 3 Most Important Goals to Remember With Images

1. Give Context to Your Messaging and Content

As soon as a visitor lands on your website, they should immediately know what you do and who you do it for. While a clear and strong value proposition is critical to quickly telling visitors WHAT you do and/or WHY they should trust you, the pictures and images used throughout your site are there to visually reinforce your message.

Another way to look at pictures and images is to recognize that they give context to the words and messaging you’re trying to convey. For example, a banner message for a high-end kitchen remodeler might read...

“We don’t just design and build amazing kitchens, we create award-winning spaces for family and friends to connect over food and fun!”

While that message may sound pretty clear by itself, it becomes even more powerful when supported by a great image (or what’s often referred to as a ‘Hero’ shot), as it provides a clear ‘visual’ for what that statement means. And if we’re being honest, people are often drawn to pictures more quickly than they’re drawn to words, so it’s important to make sure you’re using the right image to support your message.

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So, while the right image can help support a clear, coherent message to visitors, the important thing to remember here is that any images used must have a purpose. There’s no point overloading a visitor with numerous images when one really strong image is all that’s needed.

2. Show Enough Examples to Reinforce Your Message, But Don’t Overdo It

This idea is arguably the single most difficult judgement call for most business owners, especially those in service-oriented trades like Remodelers, Home Builders, and other ‘building’-related contractors.

We get it. You’re proud of your work and you want to show prospects what you’re capable of. However, if you want your website to show up in the top of search results, remember that the ‘load time’ or ‘page speed’ of your website is one of many key factors the search engines now consider when indexing your site. Given that images are defined by their file size, the more images you include in your site, the longer it will take a browser to render those images, which ultimately results in more time required for your site to load.

Aside from the negative impact a lot of images can have on your website’s load time, there’s also the negative experience too many images can have on your prospects.

It’s no secret… peoples’ attention span (in general) is significantly shorter than it ever used to be. And with the advent of mobile devices, our ability to focus on anything has been dwindled down to mere seconds. As a result, especially as it applies to service-oriented businesses, visitors to your website aren’t looking to view an entire library of your work. They simply want to see enough to know that you do great work and can be trusted with whatever project they’re considering you for.

Sharing too many images on your site will not only slow your site down and have a negative impact on your rankings, it will also frustrate your visitors by virtue of overwhelming them with too many things to look at. And when people feel overwhelmed, their instinct is to hit the back button to find something that is more easily digestible. This is a condition known as ‘decision fatigue’, and yes, it’s real.

3. Goals First, Design Second

Before you even think about what images you want to share on your website, it’s important to think about how the images you use support what you want your visitors to do. What are the primary, secondary and tertiary goals of each page?

  • Sign up for a newsletter?
  • Visit your ‘Services’ page?
  • Read your blog articles for tips and insights?
  • Contact you for more information or request a quote / consultation? NOTE: this is typically the number goal for most B2C (Business to Consumer) websites!

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Whatever the goal is that you want your visitors to complete, make sure the images you’re showcasing are there to support it. The key takeaway here is to NOT use more images than are necessary!

HLM Marketing Tip: One of the easiest and most effective ways to showcase a large gallery of images is to leverage a resource designed specifically for that like Pinterest, Instagram and Houzz. Most people visit a ton of websites for ideas every day, so you should always be looking for opportunities to get your brand in front of them while creating additional opportunities to drive them back to your website.

So, What is the Ideal Number of Images to Use in YOUR Website?

As mentioned above, this depends on the nature of your business and what visitors to your site need to see in order to feel comfortable and confident that YOUR services are the best solution for them. Here’s a couple of scenarios to consider…

If you’re a local tree trimming service, the reality is that very few visitors to your site are there because they have a ton of money burning a hole in their pocket and they thought it’d be fun to trim their trees. Nine times out of ten, most visitors are on your site because they have an immediate need. For example, maybe they have a tree, or a portion of a tree, that has broke and fallen on their home. Or maybe they have branches that are dangerously close to a power line and they need to get them trimmed before they take their power line down and create a dangerous situation for their family and neighbors.

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Whatever the scenario, those visitors are looking at your site because they have an immediate need. In short, these prospects are not concerned about being able to see a gallery of other trees you’ve trimmed. Their primary concern is whether you can get out to their home when they need you, and if they can trust you to do great work at a reasonable cost.

Point being, unless your tree service company specializes in ornamental tree trimming, there’s no need to incorporate more images than are necessary to reflect that you’re honest, trustworthy, and dependable.

What About Other Industries?

Based on over ten years of experience designing, building and managing websites for over 1,100 clients throughout the U.S., and being able to regularly assess actual data relative to how visitors are engaging with our customers’ sites, below are some image guidelines we’ve identified for a few of the more common service-oriented markets our clients operate within...

INDUSTRY: Legal

IMAGE GALLERY RECOMMENDED: No

Aside from headshots or professional images of each attorney in your firm, people who need an attorney aren’t interested in pictures. Their primary concern is your track record of success representing clients with similar issues.

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INDUSTRY: Builder, Carpentry, Construction, Remodeling, Landscaping

IMAGE GALLERY RECOMMENDED: Yes

Prospects want to know what you’re capable of and that you can deliver finished work that is high-quality. As a result, showcasing pictures of your work is essential to establishing a certain level of trust with someone who’s never worked with you before. However, you don’t need to showcase a million pictures of everything you’ve done. Most visitors will only need to see 3-5 pictures of approximately 5 different projects (15-25 images total) you’ve completed for other clients in order to get a strong impression that you do great work.

If you want to show off more projects you’ve done, you can then leverage additional resources like Pinterest, Instagram and/or Houzz to share additional examples. This can actually work more to your advantage, as most people in the top of the sales funnel (those who are simply looking for ideas and inspiration) use platforms like this before narrowing in on who they want to work with.

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INDUSTRY: Dental, Cosmetic Surgery

IMAGE GALLERY RECOMMENDED: Yes

It should be no surprise that any healthcare and/or medical discipline that exists to maintain and/or improve a person’s physical appearance should include images as examples of what you can do. However, it doesn’t take a gallery of 100+ photos to convey that you produce great results! Again, most people only need 3-5 examples of a given procedure to recognize the quality of your work.

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INDUSTRY: Electrical, HVAC, Plumbing

IMAGE GALLERY RECOMMENDED: No

Aside from headshots or professional images of your team, people who need a service specialist aren’t interested in pictures. Their primary concern is whether you can do the job and/or perform the repair they need you to perform, and whether they can trust you to be on-time and not overcharge them. In short, prospects searching for a reputable trade professional are often more concerned with the number of reviews you have and what they say about working with you than any pictures you may share.

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INDUSTRY: Roofing

IMAGE GALLERY RECOMMENDED: Yes

Roofing is often a tricky industry to determine whether an image gallery is really necessary. However, when you put yourself in your customers’ shoes, you understand that having a certain type and number of images is important.

When it comes to repairs, for example, being able to showcase a few before/after images can really help to establish trust and confidence that you deliver great work. At the same time, replacing an entire roof is NOT cheap, so prospects can benefit from seeing additional before/after examples of your work.

While a roof is largely functional, it also makes up a huge part of the visual attraction of any home. That being said, having great photos that demonstrate just how much of a visual improvement a new roof can make will go a long way in building trust and confidence in someone who is about to make a major investment. But again, most people don’t need more than 3-5 photos of 3-5 different projects (9-25 photos total) to see that they can trust you with their home.

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INDUSTRY: Industrial Services, Manufacturing

IMAGE GALLERY RECOMMENDED: Yes

Whether your company provides industrial cleaning services, repairs complex robotics, or manufactures equipment used in other manufacturing processes, pictures are key to communicating what you do and why your services and/or products are superior to your competition. However, as with many of the industries listed above, you don’t need to showcase every picture of every project you’ve ever done.

The key here is showcasing just enough visuals to help visitors to your site recognize that you’re a reputable resource they can trust. As it applies to Industrial Services, you’ll likely only need a handful of examples to convey your skills and attention to detail. However, businesses that manufacture equipment used in other manufacturing processes will likely need to showcase 2-4 images of each product they build. Again, the key here is showcasing just enough for a business owner and/or plant manager to see that your product is the right fit for their respective business.

At the End of the Day...

DON'T neglect the rest of your site

DON'T overload the gallery

DON'T use more than one slideshow gallery per page

So as it applies to the original topic of discussion, “How many images is too many?”, there is no hard rule or specific number of images any one of us can say is the perfect amount. The real takeaway here is understanding that there is an art to showcasing images within a website and finding the best balance of images and information to support what your prospects are looking for so they feel compelled to contact you and not your competitors.

Interested in learning more about the many ways HLM can help you improve the visibility and user experience of your company’s website?

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