Images are an important part of website content. I would venture to say that you should be investing about 30 to 50% of your content building time and effort into building images. But any old stock image isn’t going to cut it these days. Today, your audience is filled with image-centric, image savvy individuals and website images need to be awesome to meet those expectations.
Sound daunting? It can be. But like all content building tasks, start with baby steps and work into more. Here is our short-list of recommended “do’s & don’ts” to start with:
- Crop your images to fit your space – and enhance your message. When building content in Site Manager, always choose to crop your photos whenever possible. Cropping ensures a perfect fit, fast page load time and more. And don’t forget that cropping can enhance the vision, mission or emotion you’re looking to portray on that page.
- Add text over images – in moderation. Adding text over an image is a great visual. However, more than a couple lines of text, using a font that is hard to read or a color that is hard to read, will quickly turn that positive image to a negative user experience. Stick with easy to read fonts and keep the text short. Use the tools in Site Manager to add URLs to your images and direct your users to more content.
- A collage of pictures can sometimes be a better choice than a slide show.
- Choosing images that have a similar color as your site’s background can add a measure of professionalism to your site.
- “Image” does not always mean people or nature pictures. Create stunning announcement slides or landing page visuals using an image of a texture or background. But use a photographic one, or maybe a vector – and not clip art.
- Avoid clip art, mis-matched icons, animated GIFs.
- Be responsible – be sure you have permission to use (or re-use) the image file.
Now on to free online image editors. No doubt you’re already not sure how to go about accomplishing some of the above list. Some of the tasks you can handle right inside of Site Manager (like the fact that the slide show tool has built-in cropping to the precise dimensions of your slide show!), but many will require the use of an image editing application.
While many of you may have a software installed on your computer, free web based image editors offer the ability to crop, resize, add text and much more to your photos. And even if you have a computer software program (like Photoshop), you may just want to explore some of these options as fast and easy ways to be creative with images. Like every type of application – take a little time to explore each application, and have some fun working towards your objective!
At the top of our lists right now because of its simplicity, drag and drop and super fun effects, PicMonkey is worth a try. Not all of the features are free, but the basic cropping, image resize, photo edits (lighting, sharpness, etc.), adding text and even frames are all free. Jump on, upload your photo and you can be done in minutes. Save your photo back out to your computer and you’re good to go. Ideal for building collages, banners (think inside webpages, Facebook pages), and especially for creating the square format that is so popular with social media currently. (Tip: build a square photo for your social media stream and add it, in a smaller size, to your right side bar on your webpage!)
This free online editor is more advanced and offers traditional features that would be similar to Adobe Photoshop. While it offers more advanced features, users can quickly learn how to use the Layers palette and add text and other images (think logo on top of a texture image background) to create a well designed slide. You can save the layered file (to your computer or online if you build an account) to be loaded back into Pixlr for more editing at a later date. Which is a nice advantage if you have one image that you just want to edit the date on regularly, for example.
Very similar to Pixlr in that it offers layers and plenty of filters and image editing tools, Splashup may be a bit more user friendly. It’s a good mid-level option to explore – and offers easy sharing plus being able to save your images to your computer.
All of the above websites offer easy options for cropping to specific dimensions and/or aspect ratio, resizing, adding text overlays, and minor touch ups. Explore other features like applying color filters, fading out part of an image and much more! If you’d like to know more – watch our upcoming newsletters or forum for User Group Trainings that feature image tips.