September 1, 2005, 12:00 AM

Picture This

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-- "I can`t easily compare the pictures of the armoires. Can`t you put them side by side to scale so I can see what I`m buying?"


Appliance sites: More of the same with a few new twists. They want bigger pictures. They want the pictures to be bright (we saw a lot of appliance sites with dismal, dreary pictures of product). The new twist here is the need for the consumer to see inside. They want to get a good, up-close look at the inside of that refrigerator or oven. Some evidence to that:

-- "More pictures of the fridges, inside and out, would be nice.``

-- "A side-on picture would help as would an inside picture of the freezer."

-- "Pictures of refrigerators` interior and exterior, both the freezer and cold foods parts."

-- "Make the pictures more user friendly (zoom in/out, tilt/rotate 360 degrees)."

Note the different requirements for pictures based on the different kinds of goods being researched. The overall message here: think about how the customer needs to touch, feel, and see the product and then make the web site emulate this as best it can.

Best practices for web images

Based on what we see from the consumer`s perspective, here are some ideas on how to best handle pictures on your site.


Color: The color presented on the site has to reflect the actual color of the product--obvious, but not as well executed as it should be. We see sites that just present color swatches and leave it to the imagination of the consumer to apply the swatch to the product. The best treatment is to change the entire product to the desired color when the consumer clicks on the swatch. American Eagle Outfitters ( does a really good job of color treatment.


Size: Most sites treat this pretty well. They have a link for an "enlarged image" and this causes a separate window to open with an enlarged image in it. Still we see consumers asking for even larger images. Here`s a suggestion: put a button in the enlarged image window that says "enlarge more" and have the window itself enlarge. This gives consumers the ability to make it as large as they want. Caution: the picture itself needs to remain high quality; if it goes fuzzy in an over enlarged state it will cause problems for the shopper and you. In addition, test your site to make sure the image is, in fact, enlarged. Too many sites pop up a new window, but don`t show a larger image. does a very good job of handling the size of pictures.


Quality: Make the pictures bright and clear. We see consistent complaints about dark and fuzzy images. Again, make sure they stay bright and clear in an enlarged state. For a good example check out the GE Monogram collection at

Zoom: If you elect to provide zoom functionality, as many apparel sites do, the best treatment gives the ability to zoom in far enough to get a sense of the weave of the garment and at the same time show the consumer what portion of the garment they are viewing. Check out for an example of how to handle zoom.

The serious shopper needs to get as close to the product as possible. Internet retailers need to continue to find ways to make the online experience mirror that of the store experience. Enhancing the product imaging capability of the site is a sure fire way of attracting and retaining shoppers. Care must be taken to ensure that any imaging capability is truly usable and enhances the user experience. If it does, it will lead to more satisfied site visitors and ultimately to higher conversion.

Jeff Schueler is president of Usability Sciences Corp., provider of online customer research and usability testing services. He can be reached at

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