Archive for November, 2010

The Big Picture

How large should pictures on the web be? Once upon a time the main limitation was bandwidth, but those times are (mostly) gone. Technically speaking we have a lot more latitude than we used to. But that doesn’t mean we can do whatever we want. At least, not if we want good web communication.

95% of all content is still text, which means that pictures remain a secondary form of content. Pictures are also unreliable as information carriers, as they have to be interpreted by the user, and because that interpretation depends on on the user’s background and experiences, it’s almost unavoidable that pictures are interpreted differently. A picture usually depends on text in some way for a correct interpretation, and on the web that text is usually a headline. Therefore it’s a great mistake for newspapers such as to use pictures that are so large as to push the relevant headline below the fold. This violates the principle of not letting important content be displaced by something of lesser importance, and to make matters worse, the content is pushed further down by advertising we’re even less interested in. What we end up with is a news service where you have to scroll even to read the main article, and where you can whistle for anything like page scanability. is by no means the only offender. Large pictures are growing in popularity on the web, and usually, good communication suffers because of it,

It’s like we’re trying to copy print media just because we can. But this is the web – other rules apply.