Optimize product images for your online shop

Product images can make or break your online shop’s success. You can hire the best designer in the world to create a killer design, but when images are bad, sales will be bad. It’s the first thing a customer will look at.

Even studies show that people that shop online value product images. The most important features of a product page when shopping online are:

  1. Quality of the product images
  2. View products in all available colors
  3. Alternate views of the selected item
  4. Ability to zoom into the details of the product
  5. Product guides

(Source: E-tailing Group via Pixelz.com)

That’s four out of five features that involve product images! In this post, we’ll go over a number of things you need to consider when adding product images to your online shop.

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Product images set a mood

While I was (re)writing the article on the internal search for your online shop, I once again realized how big a role product images play in an online store. I was reviewing a site of a friend of mine and found that the images on his homepage just didn’t do justice to the products he sells. The images of his featured products simply didn’t ‘pop’. To demonstrate this, I replaced them with bright colored pictures and the website told a whole other story.

One of the things we tell our customers is to use photos of people using the product. Or the product in use. It doesn’t matter if you sell coffee machines or dresses. If you add people, your product will look friendlier and people will see themselves using your products.

Product image with the product in use - ikea bed frame

See the difference? That Ikea bed is much more appealing. Ikea does a awesome job in this, both in their magazines, on their website and in their stores. Product images like this are becoming more and more common, so be sure you’re not the last one to do this!

Using product images with the products in use works best, because people will be able to see themselves using that product. It’s as close as you can get to an in-store experience. People want to buy the product online, but an image will never replace picking a product up, looking at it from all angles or trying it on. We need to try to give our customers that same experience. For the same reason testimonials work so well, by the way.

Quality of your product images

It seems so obvious to use high quality images. But we have been telling you to reduce the file size for years, right. First of all, that doesn’t mean you have to use a crappy, blurred image of just a few kBs. The tools mentioned in our image SEO article don’t reduce the quality of an image, for instance. They remove meta / Exif data and things like that, but your image will still look awesome.

Secondly, internet connections are getting faster. We’re a lucky country, as in the Netherlands broadband internet is everywhere. There are just a few so-called white spots (locations with no internet at all), with a total size of a couple of baseball fields. That also means we’ll have less difficulties downloading your larger product image files. You’ll need larger images anyway, as that leads us to another necessary feature of online shops: ability to zoom product images.

Ability to zoom

Have you ever picked up a backpack or daypack to inspect the lining? Is it waterproof, does it protect your stuff well? You want to be able to take a closer look at details. That’s what zooming product images is for. My personal pet peeve when it comes to this, is when the zoomed image is exactly the same size (or even smaller) than the product image that was already shown. This still happens frequently! A lot of online shops simply import product images from manufacturers (or even download them from other shops that sell the same product) without testing the image first. This ruins user experience in my book.

If there is no proper product image available, create one. Even your iPhone’s camera can provide you with a decent, large image that can serve as a zoomable product image.

Shopify‘s guide on product images states:

Your product images can be any size up to 2048px by 2048px, or 4.2 megapixels. […] Higher resolution photos will look more polished and professional to your customers, and we typically suggest 1024px by 1024px as a guideline for square product images.

Woocommerce states that the minimum dimensions should be 800×800 pixels. That seems to make sense, as it will perfectly fit most tablets as well without any problem. Smaller will lead to distortion, and we have established you want quality images, right?

By the way, Pixelz has a nice guide for DIY images for your shop. Find that guide here.

Any color you want as long as it is black

Henry Ford wrote in his autobiography “Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black”. Times have changed. We at Yoast recently replaced all plastic water cups (at our water coolers) with personal Doppers and ordered these in green and purple for obvious reasons:

Yoast doppers

We switched some tops and bottoms, by the way.

Bottom line: if you want to buy a blue sweater, you want to be able to see that sweater in that color. I like the way blue-tomato.com does this, by not just showing colored squares, but a thumbnail of the product in another color:

Product image variations: not just colored squares

Especially for products that consist of one main and a few other colors, this works really well.

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Alternate views or products

You want to be able to look at a product from all angles. Let’s look at that blue-tomato.com example again. It shows that sweater being used, from the back and front, plus some details. You can really check the sweater from multiple angles.

If you are looking for furniture online, you want to check that chair from multiple angles as well. You want alternate views for the kitchen appliances, even though you’ll hide the dish washer behind a cabinet panel. And let’s take a closer look at the fabric of those drapes, or the back cover of that book. Again, it’s all about replacing the in-store experience.

Zappos does all that and adds a video of (in this case) an employee telling you more about the product itself:

Product video can add just that bit of extra to product images

The way that shoe is bent and rotated makes that you really ‘feel’ what kind of shoe that All Star is, so to say. I like that!

To wrap things up

If you have an online business selling actual products, you need to make sure to optimize your product images. Your customer will most definitely appreciate that. Make sure to:

  1. use high quality images;
  2. add an option for zoom;
  3. make sure to show the product in all available colors;
  4. provide alternate views of the product.

These are the main things to take into account when optimizing your shop’s images. I trust this article will make you rethink your own product images, or make you realize you are actually doing a pretty nice job!

Read more: ‘Optimizing images for SEO’ »