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Should your website use illustrations or images? Here’s a short guide

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Your business may have many branches around the world, or you may be a startup that has just kicked off. Whatever it is, you must have an attractive website for reaching out to prospects and customers. While you are about to launch a website, your first challenge would be finding a way to make your website stand out and make your voice be heard. It is because there are plenty and plenty of fishes already in the sea, so yours must be something unique to be known and loved by your target audience. This guide will tell you why and when you can use website illustrations

It is a fact that 48% of people believe that a website’s design is the number one factor for its credibility. Your design must be given a lot of weight.

You should put forth a lot of attention in making visually appealing elements for your website so that you can get the users’ attention. There are several ways to incorporate visual brilliance, but the most common methods are stock images and vector graphics or illustration.

In fact, there are quite a few design-oriented questions that you need to answer, and one of the most important questions is: Photos or illustrations? Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. But both photos and illustrations have their own benefits and constraints.

Stock images are the most common option that is frequently used as it can be used by anyone with even a very little experience. Illustrations are not often used as they are usually expensive unless you are professional artists yourself, but it is a choice that should be considered for several prime reasons.

When to use images for your website?

Over recent years, usage of photography on websites has become a norm for many businesses. If you are looking at the advantages of photography, here is it:

Images stirs up emotions:

By using photography, especially that of people, a website becomes more personal and relatable. Looking at this website from Senior care, it makes us think that the woman could be our own grandma. The photos are what makes the company’s website seem less intimidating and more personal.

Images invoke credibility:

There are a number of ways your images add credibility to an organization, including using the real images of the company’s employees interacting, behind the scenes look from your office location, or using a typical before/after time-lapse to show off your results.

Images generate understanding:

The phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” is very common, but there is something that it really means. Especially if the bread and butter of your company have to do with something arduous, proprietary or new and innovative products––you may use actual product photos or stock photos that demonstrate the similar products or outcomes. This will help users contextualize and better understand how your products can help them accomplish.

A quick note to keep in mind while using stock photography is to make sure to keep an eye on whether your competitor is using the same images. You can still use photography to differentiate from your competitors. But to do so, you need to use custom photography as much as possible. This will not only ensure that your images are brand-appropriate but also the photography you use is unique to your company.

When to use illustrations on your website?

The world of illustrations in a word can be called a complex one. Illustrations come under the spectrum from large, beautiful pieces of art to small and simple icons. Regardless of the type of illustration you use on your website, there are numerous benefits of using illustrations.

Illustrations makes the abstract tangible:

If your business focuses on something nebulous like a service, lifestyle or idea where there aren’t certain product images, can use this idea. That’s where custom website illustrations comes to your rescue. Much like a cologne or perfume’s commercial attempt to portray a specific feeling than the actual scents which they are selling, illustrations also do the same. Illustrations make the website’s intangible feeling tangible.

Illustrations stand out from the crowd:

This is absolutely true in larger illustrations than smaller icons. Because illustrations convey not only the product’s capability but also the aesthetics and visual tone of the brand, they make an impact. Just like how products shot on one brand to another can be quite similar, it is the visual brand and aesthetic that stick out and makes a long-lasting impression.

Illustrations are trending:

A number of well-known enterprises in the design space come out with their design predictions on a yearly basis. Gearing up for 2021 mostly all the mentioned number of illustrations-oriented design trends, and many of the sites lead the charge featured custom illustrations.

Custom illustrations are, yes, you guessed it! Custom! Which means they take time. Because many website launches or redesigning operate on a highly punctual schedule, you need to ensure that you have time to fit the creation of custom illustrations into your fixed calendar.

Website Illustrations vs images

Makes your brand stand out:

The images and look of your website always portray something about your brand. In a world that is dominated by cheap stick images, having a customized illustration style can make your website illustrations stand from the crowd. You can easily get a unique look and feel for your website.

Apart from your logo and whatever you do for your business, you can give your business and its website a distinctive personality. For instance, if you want your website to have a retro feel, artistic feel, futuristic feel, or create some other mood, it is easier to accomplish that through illustrations than with photography.

Your website would say more about you than mere words on a page with illustrations. It even conveys some unspoken message such as whether you are credible, how much you care about your products and services, and also a little about your products and services, and also a little bit about your personality. In short, a generic website with very generic images says that your products and services are also generic. This is why it is important to have illustrations which are original and show how much you care about your business, that directly translates into a message about how much you love your customers.

Connects with your audience:

It takes more for a personalized brand than simply getting noticed. The personality which you create for your website and business helps you to connect with your audience. It makes them feel like they already know something about your business than stock photography conveys.

Your brand is unique, and you deserve a website that highlights your uniqueness. Illustrations are usually more versatile than stock photography because they can be used to convey a very specific message in a memorable way.

Humans are visually oriented, and your audience tends to remember your unique illustrations rather than the words that are spoken. Illustrations set the mood on your website, and your audience will also be able to tap into that mood. This allows them to develop a deeper and personal connection with you and what you are offering them. In the end, it’s not just about getting the eyeballs to your page––you also want them to connect with you, develop a sense of trust, eventually purchase your product or services.

While searching the web, customers are always on the quest to find something they can connect with on a personal level. Hand-drawn illustrations can bump this concept up a notch and offer your audience something truly unique and different from your competitor websites. When they connect with you or your brand, they are more likely to make a purchase either right away or in future. Also, they will remember you and your website because you have something different to offer them.

Using stock photography will tell them nothing about you, but illustrations can say more and more about you and your products and services. Illustrations can make you achieve your target market and their particular likes and preferences as well. This is a more effective use of your marketing money than trying to appeal to a general audience and hoping that at least a few of them belong to the right demographic group.

Small file sizes load faster:

Another reason you need to consider illustrations instead of images is the illustrations have a smaller size. They are not as detailed as images and do not contain much information. This means it can load faster.

The speed with which a page load also directly influences the search ranking. Though factors such as content and relevance are also important, loading speed has higher importance. One of the most effective ways to increase the speed of your site is to reduce the file size of your images. Vector graphics are smaller and can also be scaled up and down by browsers to fit any device screen size.

Easy to change and edit:

Another reason to consider using web illustrations instead of images is that they are easily changeable and editable. Suppose you decide to edit your already created illustration to fit with your brand-new guidelines which would be much cheaper than creating from scratch. So, even though infographics might be expensive for you in the beginning, it’s definitely a great investment for the future.

You can hire a full-time illustrator and make quick and easy to develop content that can be edited in the future.

Cost-effective in the long term:

Connecting with your audience means more sales and followers for the long term, it can also offset the costs of the illustration. The main reason why people choose free or low-cost stock images is because of the initial costs. This seems an attractive option for personal bloggers or those who don’t have a huge advertising budget.

If the purpose of your blog is not to drive sales, then you can go around using cheap stock images, but if your business requires a serious promotion, then using stock images can be a grave mistake. Apart from the reasons mentioned above, if you fail to attract customers, gain their credibility and entice them with your attractive website, you are unlikely to make sales. In this case, even the little amount that you spend is money wasted. It is wiser to spend your dollars on methods that convert your visitors to sales.

A worst-case scenario when you want to use stock photography is that sometimes it might be repeated by your competitors. If this happens, your audience would also get to know about it, and this may lead to a loss of credibility in their eyes. If you use original illustration, it means they know that you have put time and effort into your website to make it look unique. This speaks well about the care effort and cares that you put into your products and services.

Websites that have used illustrations at their best:

website illustration reference ATD

Otis studios is a website that makes music for advertisements, films, dancefloors and games––It also specializes in sound design. They pride themselves on writing, recording and re-recording until everybody is stunned and their passion for sound and music comes across as the very first thing when you enter their website.

The website created by Feral opens up with an illustrated splash screen that states round brush strokes accompanied by scratchy ink stretches of music gear. The real wow factor is how the elements in the composition are arranged in 3D and how they move in response to the mouse, bringing the page to life and making it near impossible not to scroll down to find out more.

website illustration reference ATD

Food dispensary in Canberra produces a tiny range of ready-made meals that are cut above the rest. It describes itself as a kitchen of real people working with some real ingredients and has taken great efforts to point out that everything it manufactures is handmade, from the pasta to its ricotta and pancetta.

The food dispensary’s site constructed by Swell shows off the handmade ethos; a swish parallax site consisting of mouth-watering photography, it’s grounded with simple pencil sketches of ingredients with a background reminiscent of rough and recycled paper. The restrained use of vector graphics gives a feel of tradition and authenticity, all wrapped up in a thoroughly modern site.

website illustration reference ATD

Useless a website built by Nice and Serious has made us understand that judicious use of illustrations can help you convey your message easily and they have done a brilliant job with regard to that. It uses illustrations to highlight the problem of single-use plastic, opening with a cluster of plastic cups, bottles and carry bags that pile up at the bottom of the page (and that you can try to shift with your cursor), accompanied by horrifying statistics on the amount of disposable plastic thrown away in the UK every year.

Did you get the idea? Great! Because Useless has a map of London’s Zero-waste shops, as well as a guide to cut down on your daily waste, with plenty more illustrations to show you the way.

website illustrations ref ATD

An online world where Google maps is the solution for all your navigation problems, anyone would fall in love with the beautifully illustrated map of myth, legend and folklore from English Heritage

It is an amazing guide to some of England’s most historical sites and some fascinating stories behind them, showcasing a small sample of all the 400 sites that are taken care of by English Heritage. It also features the local myths and legends as well as the upcoming events that are happening across the country. The map was illustrated by a fine artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins, and the whole site was constructed by Gravitywell.

website illustrations ref ATD

Sparky, a marketing agency has the motto to provide a fresh set of eyes for the most powerful brands to maximize moments, elevate experiences and ignite a sense of innovation, and its new website by Angle 2 uses illustrations to really drive that point home.

The opening page is designed with scattered pairs of adorable cartoon eyes in various styles that animate when you mouse over them. It is a neat gimmick that doesn’t feel forced, and which should encourage visitors to scroll down and find out how Sparky can help their brands.

website illustrations ATD

World Wide Web has already celebrated its 31st birthday, and the internet too has hit half a century, and Nesta has put together Finding Ctrl; an online vision book dedicated for the European commission’s next-generation internet initiative. It’s a glorious collection of essays, poetry, short stories and artworks from more than over 30 contributors, addressing the questions of our evolution and where we are going next.

It’s a heavy subject, and it’s made more inviting thanks to the website built by ToyFight that brings in illustrations and particle-based 3D objects to set the tone for each article and also provide visual interest.

Websites that has used stock images effectively:

Thisispaper reference ATD

Thisispaper is a website that has used strong background slideshows to represent the services they offer, and their background is eye-catching and innovative. The slideshows provide great flexibility to the website.

oleSoiree website illustrations ATD

When you visit oleSoiree, at first glance, you will see only a single photo background, but when you use the slider, you will see a combination of two photo backgrounds. The website is filled with CSS and jQuery.

website illustrations ATD

Code24 is a website that uses multiple photographs that slide in a fixed time interval, but also provide space for a menu. They have written their tagline on the semi-transparent rectangle and have also incorporated perfect colors that make text completely visible.

Falve is a multi-page which has nothing other than a slider of images on the landing page and a clean menu on top. They have used this probably to provide more space for photographs.

Uber has cleverly played with large photographs, and each element complements the design. Here also you will see multiple photographs that are fashionable and at the same time represent their products and services.


Unfortunately, it’s difficult to choose one from them. Many websites use a mixture of images and custom illustrations, and you can do too. Ultimately when you use images over illustrations, you need to ensure that it meets the following criteria:

  1. They are on-brand
  2. They are with a modern touch ( Not necessarily trendy but not out-dated)
  3. They accomplish what they have to accomplish. Be it conveying a complicated emotion or demonstrating something specific, what’s most important is that the images should satisfy the purpose.

If you are looking for eye catching illustrations, get in touch with All Time Design support team today!

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