Should You Use Large Images on Category Pages?

Yesterday we talked about friction in the buying process — elements on your website that cause frustration, confusion or resistance in the mind of your customer.

One area to be careful of is using imagery on your site without testing them. In a live optimization clinic earlier this year titled Optimizing eCommerce Websites, Dr. Flint McGlaughlin advised “Reduce the size of the real estate and test another image. A strong face as the primary means of greeting visitors gets a strong reaction that polarizes conversion rates. Never put up a face photo that hasn’t been thoroughly tested. It needs to be the right face,” referring to this home page from Nars Cosmetics:

I noticed a similar image on a category page at Arden B:

Personally, I’m not a fan of the big banner taking up valuable real estate, nor do I like the choice of the image:

  • The gloomy, dark background is overpowering, and a bit depressing. Usually print-type model shots are used to evoke emotion, but they’re not always positive emotions. The Web and print are two different worlds.
  • This has to be the most unflattering angle for the top and the model. I can’t even define where her arm is. I get no sense of the style of the shirt, it looks like a bed sheet wrapped around her body. If I wanted to see the front of the shirt, I can’t click the image and see a product page, which is confusing. If I like the shirt, I assume I could view and purchase it on the site.

Only testing would prove whether removing the image would improve conversion:


Here’s an enlarged mock-up of what the category page would look like with more products above the fold:

Even without testing to prove results, removing the image is the safer approach — especially since you can’t click on the image to see the product being modeled. If you’ve done testing on category page banner/imaging, we’d love to hear what you discovered.

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10 Responses to “Should You Use Large Images on Category Pages?”

  1. Kristen says:

    I agree heartily. Once the customer has chosen a category, they want to view products…not lifestyle imagery.

  2. Instant Clarity on Common Website Problems…

    Click here to view the embedded video. Get Elastic ’s recent post on reducing friction kicks butt…

  3. says:

    here is an independent third-party opinion from a first time commenter.

    I really like the Arden Website Page, I too think a little too much real estate being taken up, a somewhat shorter image achieving a balance between the no image vs big image would be a better fit.

    AS far as the commentary on the type of image being used (the dark background and model being depressive?) i think you are reading too much into it the picture… WTF?

    That website image is the most attractive image on your front page blog, which caught my interest and led to further reading, how could it have negative impact on conversion?


  4. namer,

    I too found the Narden B. image attractive, if rather too large. (The Nars image I find a bit unsettling: she looks like she’s made of wax.)

    But the fact that our subjective reactions to these images vary so much just underscores Linda’s main point. The only way to be sure is to do a test.


  5. I think the point is, SHE is the most attractive but SHE isn’t selling anything. The image leads to nowhere, has no messaging, and is generally a waste of space. Attracting is often distracting when the focus is off the main action. Ironically, they have since changed the category image and it now has a message, and some even link *gasp* to the corresponding product the model is wearing.

    So key thing to take away… if you use an attractive image/model/offer, make sure it links to a desirable action.

  6. Joseph Yi says:

    Great post.

    Definitely took away some useful information that I can apply to my own work.

    Look forward to more!

  7. A smaller image directly featuring (and linking to) products for sale might help Arden B. I can’t help but wonder what the purpose of the picture is? Charity for the web designer’s out-of-work photographer brother? It’s a nice picture, she’s a pretty girl, but what’s the point?

    I think it also depends on how much brand awareness your site already has. Pottery Barn does this a lot:

    But even their site has a purpose to the large flash file – directing people through to their gift guide. And since I know Pottery Barn, I’m likely to spend time browsing, whereas I might not do so on a site that’s one of a dozen that look just like it and sell the same thing.

  8. Toy Store says:

    Whoa. That picture on NARS’s homepage is downright disturbing. I know the fashion industry does that often, but for a makeup site you think they’d go with something, well, prettier. The current image is better in terms of the model’s face, at least. Though I’m not sure about the carpet hairstyle in the wooly bear eyebrows… LOL

  9. The emphasis on testing is the real take-away from this post. I’ve seen too many instances where the marketing “experts” (that’s us) have been surprised by which image actually performs the best. Our opinions are just that — and until they’re tested, they’re of little value.

    That said, I agree with Jason that any product image which doesn’t link to a sales page is an opportunity wasted.

  10. [...] first I thought ElasticPath’s post “Should Your Use Large Images on Category Pages?” would shed light on the size of thumbnails, but the discussion is about the importance of [...]

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