Does Your Website Need a Hero Image?

im a heroTake a look at almost any newer website design on the Internet today and there's a great chance you'll see a giant photo or a huge photo slider on the home page. Just like fashion, architecture, and other industries, web design follows trends. People see other sites and they want their site to look the same. They go to seminars where "professionals" tell them "your site must have an enormous photo on the home page." 

But is it really absolutely necessary?

When I redesigned my site at the end of last year, I decided not to put a hero image on the home page just to be different. Instead, I created a simple animation using my logo to (hopefully) explain to visitors what I do. Most people don't know what graphic design is or what a graphic designer does, so I wanted to use design to creatively explain my graphic design. When I chose my company name many years ago, I imagined the I standing for ink which was an important tool that was used to reproduce my digital work. Then the Internet came along, and Apple started naming all of their products iSomething. At that point my company name became associated with the Internet. That was okay, since I started designing websites early on, but the "I" in I Design still meant more to me than just the Internet. 

So I skipped the giant images of my work, or a computer, or my office, and went with something different (see below). I also kept it to a reasonable size, so there's other information that's visible when you first hit the page. To me, there's nothing worse than going to a website and having to dig around just to find out what the site is about. I think a lot of businesses assume that visitors know what they do, or will be mesmerized by some giant photo, but sometimes it may be better to just tell them what you do right off the bat. 

I'll confess that most of my newer designs use large image sliders. As a designer I have to "give the people what they want." But I always try to include introductory text about the business and other basic information on the home page. I wouldn't want someone to have to dig around to figure out what's going on.

So think about your next website, and what would be the best way to quickly, easily and creatively tell the visitor what you do or what your about. You may not need a hero after all.

(My next article will cover some tips on how to do a good, productive home page image slider.)