web design

Using Pictures to Answer the Three Questions Every Website Visitor Has

website visitors are looking for answersI believe that every person who visits a website for the very first time arrives with the same three questions.  And the strategic use of pictures on a website can go along way towards giving visitors the answers they’re looking for.

It doesn’t matter what kind of site it is – an e-commerce site for a clockmaker in Switzerland, a site for a small church in Howie in the Hills, FL, or a health site covering the topic of back hair.  It doesn’t matter who the person is – man or woman, old or young, white, black, brown or green.  Sometimes a person is consciously looking for the answers, but often the questions lie just under the surface in the subconscious.

So, what are the three questions?

I’ll get to that in a minute.  First, I want to speak to the importance of images on a website.

No Sergeant Friday, Not Just the Facts

The Internet was originally developed by university researchers primarily for the purpose of sharing information, bandwidth was low, and so it was primarily a text medium.  But over the last several decades the Internet has morphed into a media-rich medium for the masses.  While a certain amount of Internet usage is still research and in-depth reading, a lot of Internet usage today is “surfing” or “hit and run” quests for specific things.

People search for something in a search engine, click through to one of the sites in the results, take a quick look at the site, and within 15-60 seconds decide whether to continue to look around the site or go back to the search results and try another site.

happy man with laptopDuring that 15-60 seconds when a person is scanning the homepage and deciding whether to spend more time on the site or not a lot is going on between their ears.  This is not primarily a left-brain (analytical) activity.  Fifteen seconds is not enough time to gather all the facts, analyze them, and make a rational decision.

While the person may be reading some facts, the person is also forming an intuitive impression of the website based on colors, images, layout, and the language on the web page.  The ratio of rational to intuitive thought that goes into the decision varies from person to person and situation to situation, but ultimately after 15-60 seconds the person makes a gut-level decision.

If you are primarily relying on text to keep new visitors on your website for more than a minute, you are missing half their brain. You are pretty much showing their right brain a blank screen.

If you do have images on your site but have never really thought about the impression they give your visitors, you may actually be turning away visitors without even knowing it.

So, what are those three questions?

1) Can I trust you? People want to know if they can believe what is on your site.  Are you honest?  Are you credible?  Or are you a fool or a scam artist?

2) Am I welcome here? People want to know if they will fit in with your organization.  This is less important with transactional and informational sites, but very important for organizations and businesses based on relationships.

3) Can you meet my needs? People arrive at every website looking for something whether it’s information, a product, entertainment, a friend, or something else.  They want to know if by choosing you, they will really find what they’re looking for.

Whether consciously or sub-consciously every visitor to your website is assessing your website on these 3 factors.  In our next 3 articles, I’m going take each question one at a time and talk about how to use images on your website to answer that question positively for your visitors.

Have you considered what your website is saying (or not saying) about you through pictures?

If you enjoyed this article or found it interesting, vote for it at Blogs4God so others can see it as well.

About the author

Paul Steinbrueck

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck and add him to your circles at Google+ as +Paul Steinbrueck.


  • I use yahoo webhosting and they have a web page builder that allows you to add images and text anywhere on the page and writes the code for you. It also allows you to change text size, font, colors, backgrounds, and resize images ect… I have also found helpful websites like http://www.htmlgoodies.com to be very useful site for codes and ideas. The website that I manage currently is http://www.wlbc.info . Most of the website is using the drag and drop method but have some written html pages and snippets as well. I also can add html snippets wherever i need to enhance the page, for instance if you want to past an html code because of a banner ect…
    Since I do most of my surfing on Internet explorer and Mozilla Firefox, they both have options to “view source”. This is another way to figure out how some pages are put together. If you know how to get the properties for a image on a website or save a picture from a website you can figure out which line of code the picture is on.
    Most of the time you would use

    To put it in a specific place on the page I would suggest going to htmlgoodies.com for some helpful hints. You can also make pictures into links by inserting the link inside the first like this:

    <a href=”http://www.thelinkedpage.com”>then your image then the </a>to end the link.
    Hope this helps.

  • OK that didnt work Like I wanted it to….

    if you want the visitor to visit a page without leaving your page then after the quotes of the image location put a space and tar get =”_blank” This will open that page in a new window.

    Sorry didn’t know that the comment section would actually take the html code i put in before. The links above are pretty much bogus except for the htmlgoodies.com and http://www.wlbc.info.

  • Hi Richard,

    Thanks for your comments. I modified them to show the HTML code as you wanted to.

    By the way, OurChurch.Com’s NE1 Website Builder not only allows you to add images and text anywhere on the page and change text size, font, colors, backgrounds, and resize images etc, but it also allows you to link pictures to other pages make those pages open in a new window without having to know the HTML for it.

    – Paul

  • […] Last week I started a series of blog articles about the importance pictures have in helping new visitors make the gut-level decision to stay on your website more than 15 seconds.  I believe that every person who visits a website for the very first time arrives with the same three questions.  Sometimes a person is consciously looking for the answers, but often the questions lie just under the surface in the subconscious.  Today I’m going to speak to the first question… […]

  • gday Richard

    Agree with your comments about images.

    I use Sitesell.com to build my websites. For a very ridiculous price they provide all the knowledge, tools and ongoing assistance in a step by step manner so that ANYONE can build a site on anything. Check it out at Airplane -and-Aircraft.com via the “holding pattern” and follow the links.

  • […] This is an intuitive decision based on information, appearance, and emotion.  The images on your website play a large roll in that decision.  In part 3 of this series, we look at the way the images on your site answer the question… […]

  • Thanks for your comment “another church designer.”

    First of all you’re right, the images used here are very basic stock images. That’s because this is a blog and not a homepage. I would certainly recommend putting a lot more time and effort into the images included on ones homepage.

    Second, you say your level of trust has not increased, and yet you were read this entire article (and others?) and post a comment. So, this page succeeded in engaging you so you would stay beyond the first 15-60 seconds.

    Thanks again. I hope you’ll continue to come back and contribute to the discussion.

    – Paul

  • Paul, good article… we tell our churches these same things…

    photos make your website "human" and "real" and much more exciting than text… videos are even better… I once "met" a pastor I was going to meet with over a YouTube video – he had a great testimony video posted… was funny, the next day I told him "I met you on YouTube" yesterday… 🙂

    They also like to see people worshipping to see if the people there "look like them"… 🙂

    Patrick Steil

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