When 1,000 words is no substitute for a picture

26Apr10

Over the weekend, I used the CTA website to check for delays on the Brown Line train service. While I was on the site, I noticed a featured story about CTA’s new train cars, which are apparently being tested in a few limited areas. The story, and the press release it was based on, included lots of details about what the new cars look like, what the advantages are to riders, and so on. But despite what must have been 1,000 words of text, there were no pictures to be found.

Granted, there was a section at the bottom of the page for a “gallery”. However, the picture gallery didn’t work in my browser, so all I saw was a big black box. What a letdown: they described the new train cars in detail, teased me with the promise of a gallery, and then failed to provide any way for me to view the pictures. It’s often said that a picture is worth 1,000 words, but the opposite isn’t necessarily true. In fact, giving the reader 1,000 words of descriptive text probably can’t make up for a picture that they were expecting to see.

So when you’re working on a press release, news article, or webpage that includes a substantial amount of detailed text, ask yourself whether that text really deserves to have a picture associated with it. And if it does, take the extra time to make sure the pictures are relevant and high quality, and that the images actually show up in popular web browsers. Otherwise, all the effort you spend on creating positive expectations in the reader’s mind will turn to disappointment, when people realize there are no pictures to go along with the text.



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