UK Web Focus

Innovation and best practices for the Web

The Importance of Images in Blog Posts

Posted by Brian Kelly (UK Web Focus) on 12 March 2012

Over the past year or so I’ve become aware of the importance of images in blog posts. I noticed this after I started to move away from reading blogs on my RSS reader on my mobile device, which didn’t include images, to use of RSS and Twitter aggregator services, such as Smartr, Pulse, Flipboard or Zite.

An example of the interface which I use most mornings on the way to work can be seen. This image shows the Pulse App on my iPod Touch. As can be seen in the display of UKOLN RSS feeds my blog and the blog for my colleague Marieke Guy both feature images taken from the blog posts which can held differentiate posts; in contrast items available in the UKOLN News RSS feed, for which we tend not to provide images,  fail to stand out.

It was as the importance of such personalised newspaper apps started to become apparent that I decided to make greater use of images on this blog. In this respect I am well behind Martin Weller who, on his Ed Techie blog, frequently includes images in his posts.

The thing I didn’t expect was to see such interfaces being provided for desktop browsers. However last week when I followed a link to a post on Library 2.0 on Steve Wheeler’s Learning With ‘E’s blog I found a similar graphical interface, with an image for the most recent post displayed prominently and images for other recent posts displayed underneath.

I think it will be interesting to see the way in which user interface approaches developed for mobile devices start to migrate to a desktop environment.

In a post on Who let the blogs out? Steve discusses the new theme, with a tongue-in-cheek reference to a recent series of posts on the Context is King vs Context is King debate:

For all these years I have been focusing mainly on content. It was substance over style. Focusing solely on content at the expense of context is a mistake. 

Steve went on to describe the changes to the blog:

I gave my blog a makeover a few days ago. I invoked one of the new templates that Blogger has just started to offer its users. You can see the difference it has made.  …  It holds the content, and presents it in a manner that is more accessible, easy to explore and in a more dynamic way. 

The point about “accessible content” is important, I feel, particularly in the context of accessibility for people with disabilities, which often focusses on support for Assistive Technologies (AT). But since the content hosted on blogs is available as RSS feeds, this enables end users much greater flexibility in reading blog content in ways which reflect their own personal preferences, some of which may be determined  by particular disabilities.  So for me the accessibility challenge when presented with more graphical and flexible interfaces such as the one that can be seen on Steve’s blog is the ease by which such content can be rendered by AT tools, possibly including tools which don’t support JavaScript. It is good to see that the blog is felt to conform with accessibility guidelines according to WAVE (based, of course, on only checking guidelines which can be tested with automated tools) although the blog does not conform with HTML standards.

It will be interesting to see if developments such as this theme, which is provided on the Blogger.com platform, owned by Google, will challenge traditional views on the importance of HTML conformance and Web accessibility guidelines. I would be interested to find out if the content of the blog can be made available to AT tools whilst still providing the new interface for those who prefer this way of interacting with continually the updated content we often find on blogs.

I should add that Steve’s blog can be read on my iPod Touch and Android phone using apps such as Pulse. This makes me wonder if we can regard such devices as AT tools for users who may, for example, find it difficult to make use of desktop computers?

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17 Responses to “The Importance of Images in Blog Posts”

  1. I agree about the importance of images. I source my images (usually) from either my own or others’ CCL images on flickr and my mantra is “start with the image”. When thinking about the subject of the post I go off to flickr and search for an inspirational image. As I have flickr linked to my blog, I create the blog post from the image and it gets all the attribution sorted out as well as prompting for ALT description.

  2. I don’t like blog images unless they are directly related to the content (eg a picture or graph concerning the actual thing that is being written about), so I very rarely use images for my posts – I leave that for the “pimpact” crowd.

    I’m totally aware that FOTA ploughs it’s own lonely furrow in the eduBlog world.

  3. Zak M said

    I’m with David. For some time I was sure that I needed an image for all my posts…. but often found that the image would only vaguely support the comment and didn’t ‘add/enhance’ anything. Now I only use images if they are directly useful.

  4. I use images firstly because they can provide context, and secondly because they can have impact as an additional message. Sometimes the message can be oblique or a play on words. Whether it relates directly to the content or not is not that important to me. What is more important is the overall look and feel of the blog page – i.e. the context within which the content sits. I have already elaborated on this in recent posts, and one final point… if you wish to drive more readers to your blog, use images that are evocative. My use of the fire image for my ‘Fire and Brimstone’ post has succeeded in attracting well over 55,000 readers to that one particular post in just 5 months. Put ‘fire’ into Google, and you’ll see what I mean. Just saying….

  5. I like images in blog posts. It helps me differentiate posts in my memory. I think I do roughly remember the colours at least of the blog post, and image helps.if its meaningful that’s even better. I like a bit of eye candy. Too much text is dull!

    I’ve noticed that scoop-it and linked-in pick up an image out of a post, so it helps to have one. After all, why blog if you don’t want to be amplified?
    I’ve been thinking we should keep track of how to make posts share-friendly. The services seem to be evolving fast, but images do seem to be getting more important.

  6. Zak Mensah said

    I am a fan of using the overall design to further the message of the post. So taking it beyond images I am big fan of sites like http://trentwalton.com/category/articles/ where the colours, image and layout check for every blog post and suit the blog post – more overhead but great direction. The increase in traffic is interesting for many reasons…. more digging into this particular area I think

  7. My images are often loosely connected I confess, but I use them for two purposes: 1) I think it just adds to the aesthetic appeal and 2) picking up Amber’s point, lots of tools now eg bloglines pick out an image. So a good image makes you more likely to follow on to read the post (as does a good title). So it’s part of the thing about competing in an attention economy.
    And lastly, I suppose I do it because I can – unlike an article where you only get to use graphs I can stick in a photo of a dog wearing sunglasses. Why would you pass up that opportunity?

  8. Zak M said

    I am a huge fan of images btw. I see a fairly pointless pet image and it doesn’t put me off…. but I do find it frustrating when on my poor mobile connection and this huge useless image keeps me from the good stuff! What doe’s interest me is that the hardware seems to be ahead of multimedia specs and are able to cope with vast resolutions, and therefore file-sizes are increasing. I can see folks wanting to serve high res images for those high-end tablets etc but at the expense of bandwidth and folk on lower devices at present. So it will be interesting to see how browsers/specs develop to serve the context of the device needing the content. So low bandwidth/screens should be served an appropriate sized/quality image and scale this to better devices – with only the high-end device receiving the best quality multimedia.

    For more on optimisation and what might be coming soon see http://bradfrostweb.com/blog/mobile/hi-res-optimization/

  9. I am from the Martin Weller school; I always lead and often close images as metaphors, and in fact, I usually find the process of searching and selecting a creative commons image helps me frame my ideas. To me, a visual metaphor is no different from the ones we use in our writing, and is usually less illustrative (in terms of graphs and screen shots).

    The thing to be thankful for is we have a personal choice in our style here; it is not imposed by the system; to be just the facts only, M’am of David K or the barking dog of Martin. The accessibility issues should not be a problem *if* the templates are designed well (use of alt tags, skip navigation, labels for forms, structuring so sidebars follow content) as the presentation is modded through CSS.

    Zak’s problem with Big Fat Images is real, but I hardly see needing technology, just some better awareness of sizing images for the web (not uploading a 1600px 300 dpi image and just changing dimensions on the IMG tags), there is no reason images cannot be compressed appropriately.

    That said, while the new blogger templates have come a long way from where they started, I do not favor that they stuff all the CSS into every single page, requiring redundant data sent with each page request; referencing external style sheets (and having switches for print or other devices) is more sensible.

  10. A huge chunk of text without images puts me right off. A couple of related images do wonders in making the article more readable and enjoyable. Don’t forget that by including the alt tag when embedding images, you improve the seo factor of the page.

  11. Since then the importance of imagery today is vital, both in photographs and on video, without going any further we find that three of the major social networks directly link to images (flickr, you tube, pinterest) albeit indirectly in all social networks are very important images, we would do without pictures on facebook or twitter?

    Of course in the face of SEO comes into the ALT tag in all our images.

  12. yes, this is right. Images brings great impression in blogs. but it should be clear and related to the content. Videos can also understand the blogs in better way. i think this is very helpful blog for new bloggers.

  13. I am following your comments with great interest!
    I do agree with using images not only in blogs but in whatever you do to engange your audience. From a Librarian’s perspective, “Visual” is a king and even better “visual” needs to be engaging. It’s well established that people receive information in diffrent ways, we also scan and rarely read online. Needless to mention how colours in images add shape and affect subconscious (Color theory). On the other hand you can brand your own photos, add your URL as part of the tag and ALT, add your URL in hosting sites such as Flickr and therefore increase traffic to your blog and improve SEO.

    Have a look at the article on How to Create and Use the Alt Attribute, so your articles can be indexed by search engines http://travelblogadvice.com/seo/how-to-create-and-use-the-alt-attribute-so-your-pictures-can-be-indexed-by-search-engines/

  14. pranjalgupta2009 said

    Of course visual impact is always great and creates deeper interest in the readers, if the added image is highly related to the page content, I agree with all your lines and hanks for sharing.

  15. I agree that images are dominating blogposts. It’s even more interesting to see new sites like Pinterest use images as the main way to share information. Great post! Thanks.

  16. [...] to encourage reading. A problem with that approach is that there is only one view of the report. As described in a previous post images in blog posts can enhance the user’s experience across a wide range of personalised [...]

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