We are in a tough economic climate where SMBs need to work effectively to gain the edge over their competitors. With confusion over copyright and the proliferation of “˜do it yourself’ website builders, many business owners are left feeling unsure about how to create their own site which will stand out, be effective at securing new business and suit their needs, but which will also be copyright compliant.
Businesses need to look to communicate their brand values and unique selling propositions successfully and in this online-driven society, so an easy-to-use website with strong visuals is key. The visual language used on a website must represent the company’s values and connect with its customers.
The imagery used by a plumbing company, for example, will be different to that used by a law firm. Each industry will have a different way of using visual language to speak to their audience.
Looking to source an image from a selection of millions can obviously be a daunting matter, but SMBs should consider five important aspects before making the choice.
- Purpose – what is the image for, what do you want it to say?
- Tone – it is not what you say, it is how you say it.
- Audience relevance – will your audience relate to and understand the image? Timeliness – how new is the image?
- Uniqueness – are your competitors using the same image or is it one of a kind?
However, with choosing images comes the cloudy matter of image copyright. While sometimes confusing, copyright still is an important area for SMBs to understand and adhere to, otherwise they risk being over-charged, or worse, breaking the law.
A common misconception is the tendency to believe that once an image has been published online, it becomes part of the public domain. This, however, is not true and images remain bound by copyright. Anyone wanting to use the image further needs to have consent from either the author of the image or, when the licence agreement of the social network allows it, the administrator of the website.
However, by buying royalty free images from sites such as iStockphoto.com, small businesses can be sure that they are not breaching copyright. More information on this can be found at Stockphotorights.com. Image users may also find the PicScout ImageExchange application very useful – a free, downloadable tool which helps content users find out where they may properly licence images they find on the Internet.
Once the most suitable images have been chosen it is crucial to make sure the website is easy to use and not cluttered. The images need to be kept simple yet clear enough to highlight what the business wants to say. Images are there to illustrate the company’s message rather than obscure it – they need to be there for at-a-glance comprehension.
In this fast-moving online world, content is essential, and creating quality content on a regular basis is the most effective way to attract and retain website traffic. Furthermore, search ranking will increase by having an active website and will encourage customers to spend more time reading the text.
A great and easy way to implement this is by running a blog. This allows the business to share expert knowledge while providing additional value to the site. Other easy ways would include changing some of the featured images and graphics regularly to keep the site feeling fresh.
Many SMBs shy away from creating a website — they see it as time-consuming and expensive project and are apprehensive about copyright laws. They don’t have to be. By using a trusted source for content, addressing the company’s visual branding and ensuring the site conveys core company values, an easy-to-use website can help a business stay ahead of its competitors and cut through the clutter.
About The Guest Author: Rebecca Swift is the head of creative planning for iStockphoto and was one of the founding members the creative research team at Getty Images. Swift is responsible for building image collections for iStockphoto’s content library and runs global research projects, looking at the future of visual communications.
Web Design Photo via Shutterstock