Maybe you remember the first time you picked up a book and – oh my – there were no pictures!
Maybe you put it right back down. Or perhaps you bit the bullet and read your first text-only book, and discovered that a good story helps your imagination create its own pictures.
Switching over to the web, we seem to seeing that process in reverse.
Fifteen years ago most site pages were all text. The images that were included tended to be small, primarily to accommodate slow dial-up connections.
Then broadband came along and we discovered we could not only add more and bigger images to each page, but we could also include multimedia.
There is an important point there: we COULD include more images and multimedia. There is no requirement, it’s just something we can choose to do.
But if you look at today’s websites and blogs, you might be excused for thinking that it was a requirement. No blog post seems to be complete without an image, even if the image in boring and barely relevant.
You know the kind of image I mean. Someone writes a post about working from home, and then they go to an image bank and grab a photo of someone sitting on a beach with a laptop, jumping ecstatically into the air with a blue sky background, or holding wads of cash with a stupid grin on their face.
These images don’t add any real value or meaning to the post. They are visual clichés, and merely decorative.
If an image doesn’t work for you, how about a chart or, even better, an infographic?
Yes, sometimes charts and infographics can add real value. But often they don’t. They are added to the page as eye candy.
Or how about forgetting the text altogether, and shooting a 7-minute video?
Again, for some topics a video can communicate your point more effectively than text. But very often they are used for the wrong reasons, and are either too amateur, or too slick and over-produced.
We can argue about the relative benefits of text versus multimedia, and we probably should.
But regardless, am I alone in seeing a dumbing down of web content?
I’m guilty of this myself, in so far as I deliberately write online content in a way that makes it easy to read.
But are we perhaps going too far?
In our attempts to attract and hold readers, are we making everything too simple and too easy? Are we underestimating the intelligence and attention span of our readers?
I ask, because, as I noted at the beginning of this article, websites are becoming more and more like children’s books.
Lots of images and multimedia, and not too much text.
After all, we can’t expect the poor dears to stay focused if we fill the pages with too many words.
BTW – Before you respond, I do know that images, infographics and video can add enormous value when done well, and used in the right circumstances. And I do know that adding other elements to a text-only page can give you some SEO brownie points. And I do know that multimedia can be a big draw when promoting your pages through social media. I know that stuff.
But even so, I resent having to search far and wide to find a quality writer who has taken the trouble to write a high-quality page.
As with that first book without pictures, a well written text-only web page can stimulate your brain into making all the necessary connections without any extra help.
No pictures of happy, leaping people required.