In web design, a hero image serves as the initial visual element—be it a photograph, graphic, illustration, or video—that greets visitors on a web page, typically combining an image with text to convey the core message of a company. 

Positioned above the fold, the hero image often includes a call to action (CTA), encouraging visitors to explore further into the website.

The purpose of a hero image is to infuse energy and excitement into a page. It should showcase your brand’s identity, communicate the site’s purpose, and ignite visitors’ curiosity to delve deeper.

An effective hero image can significantly enhance your website traffic and boost conversions by enticing users to engage with your content. 

To unleash your creativity, you can explore options like animation, carousels, and scroll-triggered effects, moving beyond conventional stock photography. 

The Psychology Behind Hero Images

Serving as the initial introduction to visitors, hero images possess the ability to captivate, inform, and allure

Let’s take a closer look at the compelling reasons behind integrating hero images into your website’s design toolkit.

Make a Lasting Impression

Hero images enhance your website’s visual charm, using compelling graphics and dynamic elements to engage visitors instantly. 

Carefully chosen hero images can convey your brand’s essence, products, or services at a glance, leaving a memorable impression and encouraging users to delve deeper.

Facilitate Seamless Navigation

A well-crafted hero image is not just about visual appeal; it is a signal for users, revealing navigation paths. 

It offers visitors a visual clue about the content and skillfully directs their attention to the call-to-action button. 

Imagine you have an online fashion store specializing in athletic wear. Your primary goal is to encourage visitors to explore your latest sportswear collections and make a purchase.

Now, imagine your hero image features a dynamic shot of a professional athlete wearing your flagship product, exuding confidence and determination. 

The image perfectly encapsulates the essence of your brand: high-quality, performance-focused athletic wear designed for serious athletes and fitness enthusiasts.

By strategically placing this hero image at the top of your homepage, visitors are immediately greeted with a powerful visual message that aligns with your website’s objective: promoting your latest sportswear line

The athlete’s energy and the superior quality of your products are vividly conveyed, capturing the attention of your target audience.

Aligning the hero image with your website’s objectives establishes an intuitive path for users to explore further, enhancing engagement and driving conversions.

Impart Knowledge and Information

A hero image also serves as an informative asset, conveying vital information (such as your USP), setting the context, and defining the website’s theme. 

Whether it’s showcasing a product, spotlighting a service, or sending a message, a thoughtfully designed hero image adds depth and clarity to your content, enabling visitors to grasp your site’s offerings quickly.

Evoke Emotions in Visitors

Mastering the emotional appeal of a hero image is a craft in web design. 

It involves using visuals to stir emotions that resonate with your audience.

Let’s consider the example before, with the hero message showcasing the athlete’s triumph. 

For aspiring athletes, it can serve as a motivator, emphasizing speed, power, and endurance. All are emotions that strike action in the minds of the visitors.

When you create a website with a hero image that strikes the right emotional chord, you encourage visitors to connect on a deeper level, fostering engagement and crafting a memorable user experience.

Aesthetic Pleasure

A well-chosen hero image enhances your website’s overall aesthetics, crafting a visually enchanting and unforgettable experience for visitors. 

Aesthetically pleasing hero images elevate your brand’s image, drawing users into your content and laying the foundation for effective content marketing initiatives.

Elements of an Effective Hero Image

Size and Placement on the Webpage

Position your hero image in the upper section of your landing page, visible without scrolling. It can either be placed just below the top header or right at the very top of the page.

Typically, the hero header occupies nearly the entire page width before scrolling. Yet, there are some exceptions. 

Take into account the following situations:

  • Usability Considerations: Certain niches demand essential information to be visible on the initial screen. For instance, booking websites often prioritize a booking form over a full-width hero image.
  • Marketing Needs: Marketing campaigns might necessitate dedicated spaces for CTAs, lead magnets, or forms, diverging from the standard full-width approach.
  • Mobile-Friendly Design: On smaller screens like smartphones and tablets, web designers opt for non-full-screen images to ensure a comfortable user experience, steering away from expansive visuals.

A full-screen hero image should not exceed 1,200 pixels wide, while the aspect ratio should be 16:9. Conversely, a banner hero image should be 1600 x 500 pixels.

Image Quality and Loading Times

Behind the scenes, image optimization techniques come into play. 

Be mindful of using large images for your hero section on your website, especially on mobile versions, as it can affect website loading speed. 

According to Google, even a small delay, such as going from 0.4 to 0.9 seconds, can drop your traffic by 20%.

Ensure that your banner images (or videos) aren’t too large, and store them on a fast server. That way, your site won’t lag when people visit, preserving the user’s seamless experience.

A helpful tip is to use both PNG and JPG file formats to see which one helps your webpage load faster.

Relevance to Brand or Message

Consider if the image you’ve chosen truly enhances your content. 

While opting for stock photos might seem convenient and budget-friendly, they often lack originality and can come off as cliché. 

Achieving a perfect hero image that seamlessly integrates with your product photos and core message is challenging with generic stock images.

On the other hand, relevance to the brand establishes authenticity, resonating deeply with the audience and forging a genuine connection.

Incorporation of Text and CTA

The art of integration lies in the synergy between visuals, text, and CTAs

Clear, concise messaging within the hero image, coupled with strategically placed CTAs, guides users toward desired actions, transforming engagement into conversions.

Omniconvert’s Hero Image combines our USP and the CTA with a relevant illustration.

Designing Hero Images: Best Practices

Since hero images hold the significance they do, it’s crucial your design is flawless and intuitive, captivating users without hurting the website’s performance. 

Let’s explore the essential best practices for designing hero images that leave a lasting impression on your visitors.

Choosing the Right Image: Stock Photos vs. Custom Photography

One of the first decisions you’ll face is whether to use stock photos or invest in custom photography. 

Stock photos offer convenience, but they often lack uniqueness. 

On the other hand, custom photography allows you to tailor images precisely to your brand, ensuring authenticity and originality. Yet, even if it’s more effective, this option is also pricey-er. 

Small business owners might not afford to invest in high-quality, custom images yet.

Whichever option you pick, prioritize images that resonate with your brand identity and message, forging a genuine connection with your audience.

Balancing Imagery with Page Load Speed

While visually striking images are essential, they shouldn’t compromise your website’s loading speed. 

Large, high-resolution images can significantly slow down your site, increasing bounce rates. 

Strike a balance between image quality and file size through compression techniques. 

Optimize your images to ensure quick loading times, providing visitors with a seamless and enjoyable browsing experience.

Ensuring Mobile Responsiveness

Considering how 58.72% of website traffic comes from mobile devices, it’s clear that mobile responsiveness is non-negotiable. 

Your hero image should adapt seamlessly to various devices and screen sizes, including smartphones and tablets. 

Responsive design ensures that your hero image looks visually appealing and retains its impact, regardless of the device visitors are using. 

This adaptability enhances user satisfaction and encourages engagement across all platforms.

Using the Right Color Schemes and Overlays to Enhance Text Readability

Carefully choose color schemes and overlays that enhance text readability. 

Contrast is crucial here; ensure that the text stands out clearly against the background. 

Experiment with different color combinations and overlays to find the perfect balance between aesthetics and legibility. 

Your aim is to make your text easily readable, to ensure that the message is conveyed effectively, enhancing the overall impact of your hero image.

Text and CTA Integration

On visuals alone, the hero image doesn’t hold much power; the magic happens when aesthetic images blend seamlessly with powerful copywriting. 

Let’s see how this blend happens.

Importance of Clear and Concise Messaging

Effective communication hinges on clarity. 

When it comes to hero images, simplicity in conveying messages is crucial.

Apple perfectly balances product showcasing with a strong USP and a clear CTA.

For instance, imagine you’re designing a website for a travel agency. 

Your hero image could feature a serene beach with the text “Escape to Paradise” overlaid. 

This clear message instantly communicates the value proposition, inviting users to explore travel options effortlessly.

Placement and Design of CTAs within the Hero Image Area

Strategically placing CTAs in the hero image should focus on naturally leading users to these buttons without overwhelming the overall design.

Consider an eCommerce site selling shoes. The hero image could showcase a stylish pair of sneakers with a button saying “Shop Now.” 

Seamlessly integrating the CTA into the design encourages users to click, streamlining their shopping experience.

A/B Testing Different Text and CTA Variations

All these examples are excellent theory – but experimentation is key. 

Try out different text and CTA variations to see what resonates best with users.

For instance, suppose you’re promoting a fitness app. 

One hero image could say “Get Fit Today,” while another says “Start Your Fitness Journey Now.” 

Testing these variations empowers you to observe which message prompts more user engagement, allowing you to refine your approach based on real user interactions. 

The Role of Hero Images in User Experience (UX)

Contributing to Website Storytelling

Your website’s hero image can be a powerful tool for brand storytelling – using narratives to convey your brand’s unique selling proposition. 

Carefully selected visuals have the power to narrate compelling tales, evoke profound emotions, and craft unforgettable user experiences.

This approach is highly effective in brand-building, as compelling stories tend to leave a lasting impression, making them memorable to your audience.

Atlassian tells the story of their concept through illustrations.

Navigation Cues and User Flow Considerations

Imagine a website dedicated to outdoor adventures.

The hero image could feature a group of friends camping under the starlit sky, roasting marshmallows around a campfire. 

This image not only conveys the essence of outdoor camaraderie but also serves as a visual cue, leading users to explore related content like camping gear, hiking trails, or stargazing tips.

image generated using AI for this article alone.

By aligning your hero images with specific website sections, designers provide intuitive navigation cues. 

For instance, a hero image featuring a scenic mountain range could lead users to hiking and adventure-related content. 

In contrast, an image of a cozy reading nook might guide them to book recommendations and literary discussions. 

These deliberate choices not only enhance user experience but also encourage users to explore various facets of the website, creating a seamless and immersive storytelling experience.

Hero Images and Brand Identity

Aligning Hero Images with Brand Values and Identity

Consistency is the bedrock of brand identity. 

Hero images, infused with brand elements such as logos, color palettes, and typography, reinforce brand identity, cultivating familiarity and trust among users.

Consistency Across Different Platforms and Devices

In the era of diverse browsing devices, uniformity is paramount. 

Hero images must seamlessly adapt across platforms and devices, ensuring a cohesive brand experience, regardless of the user’s chosen screen size or orientation.

Adapting Hero Images for Cultural Relevance and Localization

Global audiences demand cultural sensitivity. 

Hero images must transcend cultural barriers, resonating with diverse audiences. 

Localization efforts, including language nuances and imagery, enhance relatability, making the brand universally appealing.

Did you know? You can use Omniconvert Explore to segment users by their geolocation, allowing you to display personalized messages tailored to the specific location from which the user accesses the website.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

You know what elements should exist on a hero image and their role in driving engagement and conversions. 

Now, let’s look at the common mistakes we’ve seen in the industry, their impact, and how to avoid them.

Overcrowding the Hero Space with Too Much Information

While it’s essential to convey a message, bombarding visitors with an overload of text, images, and CTAs can backfire. 

An overcrowded hero section can confuse visitors, making it challenging for them to discern the primary message. 

To avoid this, prioritize a clear and concise approach. 

Identify the core message you want to convey and focus on displaying only the most relevant information. 

Allowing breathing room within the hero space to create a visually appealing layout that guides visitors smoothly to the next steps, enhancing their user experience.

Example of an overcrowded hero image courtesy of AAF.

Choosing Images That Are Irrelevant to the Content or Message

An incongruent hero image can create confusion, leaving visitors wondering about the relevance of the visual to the website’s purpose. 

The hero image should encapsulate the essence of your message, evoking the intended emotions and connecting with the audience. 

For instance, if you’re promoting eco-friendly products, your hero image could feature nature-related visuals, emphasizing sustainability. 

This alignment ensures consistency, reinforcing your brand identity and resonating with visitors effectively.

Neglecting the Mobile Experience

We’ve already discussed the prevalence of mobile browsing and why neglecting the mobile experience can be detrimental. 

A hero image that looks stunning on a desktop might not translate well on smaller screens, leading to distorted visuals or awkward cropping. 

Ignoring mobile responsiveness hurts user engagement and can increase bounce rates. 

It’s better you prioritize responsive design to steer clear of any issues.

Testing and Optimizing Your Hero Image

Whether you want to drive your conversion goals, encourage users to read an article, or entice them to click on a CTA, the hero image holds a prime spot.

To that end, A/B testing becomes invaluable.

This method involves displaying the original version of your webpage to 50% of your visitors while the other 50% are shown a new variation. 

Presenting different versions to your audience helps you collect data to determine which version performs better regarding conversions.

If a challenger page doesn’t outperform the original, you can iterate and test new hypotheses. 

This could involve experimenting with design, altering the copy, or tweaking the CTA. 

Additionally, you can personalize user experiences by displaying different hero images to specific visitor segments.

Continuously testing various hero images offers a pathway to enhance your conversion rates and refine the overall website experience over time.

Here are some ideas for testing and optimizing hero images:

Testing Still vs. Moving Images

Explore whether users find still images more engaging and informative or if they prefer dynamic visuals like GIFs or HTML5 animations. 

This test can reveal user preferences regarding visual engagement.

Testing Interactive vs. Auto Play Videos

Determine the impact of embedded audio, specifically whether users prefer interactive play videos where they need to click to activate the content or if auto-play videos are more effective. 

This helps assess the significance of video content and user interaction.

Testing Value Proposition

Evaluate the emotional responses elicited by different images. 

Do they trigger varied user emotions, leading to distinct behaviors on your site? 

Understanding the emotional impact can guide you toward selecting hero images that resonate effectively with your audience.

Tip: use the JTBD methodology to understand the progress people are striving toward using your product or service. Why are they buying your products? After understanding their specific needs, you can formulate your USP using prospects’ language and communication tone.

Testing Object Focus

Assess whether the main subject of your image creates a positive feeling among users, prompting actions that contribute to your business objectives. 

It’s essential to understand if the image is appealing and encourages user engagement or if it has an off-putting effect.

Several tools and software platforms facilitate hero image design and testing. 

Graphic design software such as Adobe Photoshop and online platforms like Canva offer intuitive interfaces for creating visually appealing hero images. 

You can also use Omniconvert’s Explore to conduct A/B tests, gaining valuable insights into user preferences and behaviors.

Wrap Up

As we reach the end of the exploration of hero images, we leave you with this: don’t be afraid to embrace the artistry of visual storytelling and experiment with creativity.

Hero images can become a dynamic force shaping user experiences, sparking emotions, and driving conversions.

Use Omniconvert Explore for continuous testing and optimization to craft digital experiences that resonate, inspire, and endure.