Decorative Images: Delightful or Dreadful?


This is a lovely looking gift. I would be very happy to receive this. It looks beautiful. Part of what makes it beautiful is the tissue
paper, it’s the decoration. This is what causes an emotional response
for people. When they see something pleasing — we can
often trigger that visceral emotional response that says, “I want that.” Now, what does that have to do– what does
this gift bag and tissue paper have to do with UX? I’m so glad that you asked. What I want to talk about today is the difference
between decorative images and information-carrying images. There’s an important distinction. Decorative images are the types of images
that we often see way overused on sites. It’s the stock images that don’t add any real
substance to the page. It’s images that are just kind of filler, or that people feel
like they’ve seen everywhere else on the web. What happens is users tend to see those images
and they ignore the rest of them on the page; because they get the sense that none of them
have any value. Decorative images can also have the downside
of pushing important content further down the page; which means that users have to work
harder to actually get to the real stuff they came for. On the other hand, information-carrying images
like the product page pictures that we all love and see—when we can zoom in on details
and get to really understand what it is that we’re looking at—those images add a lot
of value for users. People spend a lot of time carefully looking at them and
using them to make decisions about what’s important. So, when you’re considering your content for
your site, make sure you’re carefully assessing whether or not you’re using a decorative image
or an information carrying image, and which one is going to be more valuable to your users. Yes, decorative images do have value, and they
can be very well-used to support the brand and the tone of voice, but you never want
to overdo it to the point where people can’t get to the actual content. So, this all looks really nice, but what I’m
really interested in is what’s inside. Oh! This lovely bird picture. So, remember: when you’re considering what
type of images to show, if you’re leaning toward decorative images, use them sparingly and with
purpose to support your brand and your tone of voice. But don’t use them to the point where you’re going to
obscure the actual content that people are coming for. Instead, consider using information-carrying
images which add a lot more value to your page.

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