When we use images, obviously we’re trying to add something. After all, why use an image that’s irrelevant, badly constructed or simply pointless. For some people however it doesn’t matter so much about the composition simply that everything needs pictures especially online. There is some truth in this fact, images simply make text easier to read simply because it breaks up the page. If you’ve ever seen a forum or blog post where the author has basically ignored common punctuation and paragraphs – then you’ll appreciate just how difficult it is to make sense of a mass block of text.
Of course, it’s better for an image to add something to the text. If I’m writing a report or study on monkeys in Africa – casually just dropping in a picture of a penguin is going to look a bit stupid. Although you could argue it’s thought provoking and makes the reader take notice of the image. The graphic in this instance would merely add to the structure of the page and possibly make it more visually appealing.
Technology documents and pages can be extremely dull and graphics although probably not strictly necessary usually make it easier to follow. For example if I’m writing a blog post about how a UK VPN would work then adding a couple of relevant images can make the page much more interesting.
The image itself is not that important but the effect it has on the page is crucial. Here’s a picture of a VPN server, for the reader trying to understand the concept it might make the difference.
Sometimes it’s difficult to find the right image to use in a page, but then use your imagination and just try and substitute something similar. Obviously there’s only so many hardware pictures you can use in a technology post, but there are lots of related images that can make a page look more visually appealing.
Anything to do with networks or technology then you can break out the standard networking diagrams that you’ll find in many power point presentations. The actual image doesn’t mean much but the page will look much brighter and easier to read.
Of course in some senses then you should be much more careful about the use of graphics and only use them in the right context. A white paper or a serious research paper needs discipline and often every word is crucial, this is not the place for random lightning bolts implying the awesome speed of a computer network. Explanations and blog posts though would look much sadder without them. I often write posts about technology and facts, I have written many on how to bypass geo-blocks set up by media sites. But I have found that a post which purports to explain how to watch BBC iPlayer abroad – like this one, works much better with an image or video embedded in the text.
How do I know? Well the beauty of web pages is that you can actually analyse what your readers are doing – metrics like how long they stayed, where they clicked off and if they pressed the back button are all readily available. Through these you can see what works and what doesn’t and for technology posts you need images.