Replacing The Carousel: Should You Consider a Hero Image?

Erin Funk Erin Funk
July 09, 2015
User Experience Design , Web Strategy

The carousel has long passed its popular days in the world of digital design. So what has succeeded the magnificent real estate that is the front-page and first impression for each website? The hero image. A hero image is basically a large photograph; the carousel simplified to one, very large message with the goal of standing out amongst the other billions of messages our brains are served every day.

These hero images are not new to digital design, you know the saying that everything has been done before, but its popularity has increased recently. Apple has been using these large-scale sales pitches to show off their products for years, while more media sites have recently adopted the trend. Both USA Today and Mashable use this format for some of their content. B2B and consumer sites are also catching on, and in 2014, when Roundedcube redesigned our site, we implemented a hero image on our front page and in our Sitecore Solutions section.

Should your new website or redesign incorporate a hero image? Should a company spend money, time, resources, etc. on the latest trend or wait for the next content craze? Your digital strategist, marketing team or content team should make that decision. When talking big picture (see what I did there), the three factors to consider are the audience, the strategy and the content.

The Audience

When clicking on a link from an email or from a tweet, your users will be greeted with only an image and maybe a headline. Considering the user’s age, computer savviness and their device– will this be startling and confusing or refreshing and beautiful? If you have an older base or if your industry isn’t picturesque – then huge photos are probably not the way to go. Remember above the fold space is valuable and if a user doesn’t like what they see or how much they have to scroll, they are one click away from where they came from.

The Strategy

Will hero images help sell? Even if your website has awareness or education goals rather than dollar signs, you have to consider if these large images will help or hurt your bottom line. Could the space be used to explain your service, set the tone for a page, help tell a story or just show the product off? If your site doesn’t already have a content strategy, adding content without anyone to manage or execute it won’t be effective. Consider using these images for only parts of your site such as blogs or pages with a lot of text that can be easily balanced with images. Lastly, be cautious of how your site looks on all devices. These factors should always be considered in the strategy phase of decision-making.

The Content

Like stated above, you have to have the right picture to make a hero image really work for you. If your industry doesn’t invoke positive imagery, you could run into negative thoughts about your brand. With poor quality imagery, you run the risk of appearing unprofessional or cheap. Bad stock photography can be distracting, even when it accompanies a great article.. If you are committed to the feature, spend the time and the money for the correct photos. Resourcing, budget, a style guide and team buy-in are each important factors in making sure you have content for this feature.

The premise of a hero image is trendy in our content hungry digital world, but just like all the fads, spending money before considering strategy is bad business. Roundedcube’s design, UX, content and digital marketing teams all have tools, exercises, processes and best practices to help any business determine what content would make their site most effective. Before buying into the craze, make sure these large images won’t give your brand an image problem.

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