As humans our minds don’t like tricks. We get used to tricks pretty easily, meaning they don’t work anymore. There used to be time when we increased CTR on Google Adsense by placing images above it. It worked nicely but in time, it stopped working so well. People were blaming it on different things and there were a lot of theories about it. But what they never thought of, was the simple fact that people just got used to it.
Banners also started out nicely and they had their purpose. Then someone thought of a way to trick people into looking at the banner more. The idea came from the fact that our eyes monitor movement “on the sides”. So if we’re looking straight, any sudden movement to the left or right side will trigger a reflex and we will look at it. This is the reason why the banners were put on the sidebar of the website and added a blink effect. The blink effect wasn’t added because it looked good (although most people thought it did and used it anyway). It seemed a good, nice idea. And it was… for some time.
However, today we are “banner blind” because of it. It’s a pretty interesting phenomenon. Our mind says ‘I won’t process anything similar to a banner’ and so subconsciously stops focusing on banners. It remembers the shapes and sizes of each, and just censored them out. No sudden affects or movements helped anymore. The banner slowly died as a successful ad channel.
Source : NNGroup
Social media and information overload has become a real problem today. There is just too much (unimportant) information being passed to us from all the different media channels. It’s too much to handle on a daily basis and this information is not even filtered. We alone are filtering out the information that we want or need. But to do that, we scan each piece of information that is given to us. Take the Facebook wall, for example. 80% of those posts we don’t even want to read but we still have to check each out to determine if the information is interesting or not to us.
Remember the feeling when Template Monster had those html templates where most of them had arial or verdana fonts? One look at the site/design and you would think of Template Monster. That’s how these things become so recognizable if we watch them over and over again.
Stock image blindness
Now, besides banners and html templates, stock images are also being ignored more and more. Similarly to banners, we are already developing a blindness to them. And if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. We see them everywhere and they have that special “feeling” that is recognizable. Maybe it’s the whole fake image without any aura to them. Fake smiles, fake people, fake connections. Their message is lost. You could have movie stars in them (and they are barely recognizable), but look and feel of them would still stay the same.
Another problem of stock images is the context you put the site in with the overuse of the same images all over the place. Imagine two ad agency sites having the same stock image of “professionally looking group of business people” and you as a visitor see the same image on both sites. Maybe even a caption with “Our employees are experts in the services we provide”? Wouldn’t that be really weird? You probably wouldn’t want to work with either of the companies as there is no integrity or trust there.
Stock images give a lot of negative attributes like a cheap, fake, untrustworthy and boring feel to your message. Is it really something you want your brand or website to be attributed with? (quote in wp)
How do you avoid overused stock images?
The best tip is to create your own and stand out from the rest of the internet. Instagram is really nice with it’s color filters too which may help until you become better at taking pictures.
Now what to do to be non tricky and real? Well, one thing that is to hire a proper photographer or make your own pictures. It’s the right thing to do and you can even put in some of your own elements somewhere. For example, your office dog or maybe your company or site logo that you 3D printed or just some of your business cards or promo material. Make it genuine and real; put some of your character in them.
Another nice way is to go through Flickr and find some cool images. Then contact the photographer, ask if you can use it on your website and offer a link to them or their website. It’s the right way and thing to do.
I hope you’ve heard the story of Unsplash. If you didn’t, it’s quite a nice story about how they started from not much. I think their success is also because they didn’t do it for the money – as your sites shouldn’t be also. They should be made to help and solve the problems of your viewers. Of course, if a solution is a product you want to promote, then even better.
There are also a lot of stock sites out there that are similar. Most of the bigger ones have very similar images as some share the same databases. There is an amazingly massive and curated list of Stock resources categorized and even licences are explained. It has everything from photos, to icons, videos and illustrations. So take your time to find some new and fresh ones that will brighten up your website or articles.