How the Internet Image Movement doesn’t Always Work

There’s been a huge movement for websites to focus heavily on image content. The movement sprung to life in the first quarter of this year with the rise in popularity of the social networking site Pinterest. The site offered users the ability to share, save, and comment on images users were inspired by or wanted. The result was a new way of thinking in a mostly text-heavy internet world.

Companies across the internet  took note of the overnight success of the site, and suddenly it was deemed images were what users wanted online. Facebook doubled the size of images across its site. Mobile apps were updated to display content in a photo-friendly way. USA Today made a splashy entrance into this new trend with a completely revamped website. It soon become apparent that if you  weren’t updating your site to focus on images, you were falling behind.

USA Today website Bryan Nagy

I wrote about this trend over the summer and at the time, the movement was logical. As the saying goes, images tell a thousand words. However, sometimes this isn’t a good thing. As more and more sites make the move to becoming-image heavy, it has become too much to handle for many. Images aren’t always the solution, for a few reasons:

  1. Images don’t organize content. Want to organize images easily on a screen? It’s tough. Considering the large size of images, it’s nearly impossible to easily organize dozens of images in a matter than makes sense within one screen. The moment a user has to scroll their screen, any organization is lost, and the user has to move the screen up and down to make sense of the images.
  2. Images convey too many messages. If an image tells a thousand words, what does a screen full of them do? It overwhelms the user.
  3. Images must make sense in the right context. Images on Pinterest make sense- they’re about user interests, inspiration, and desire. They aren’t used to represent complex concepts, news stories, weather, instructions. They are meant to convey feelings, one image at a time.

These reasons have caused frustration and confusion for many users online. As a great example, earlier this month popular tech and social media news site Mashable released a new image-based look. Unfortunately, Mashable has run into all of the above problems. The site lacks organization, it is overwhelming, and it is confusing to navigate through. All of these problems could have been avoided by realizing that not everything needs to be an image- sometimes text is needed to help lead the user through the site.

websites marketing social media Pinterest Bryan Nagy

Companies must decide what’s right for their audience before jumping on the image trend. It can work wonders for the right business (like Pinterest) or just make matters more confusing. Online trends can be exciting and get you noticed, but it can also get you into trouble. Are images here to stay? Probably. At least until the next trend comes around.

-Bryan Nagy