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on Conversion Rate Optimization

Starting with a new series on this blog called Revisiting the Classics, I will re-look at our A/B testing case studies and throw some new light on it (with additional commentary). The case study that I picked for this post relates to human photos on landing pages and whether they increase conversion rate. Before reading rest of the post, make a guess: do human photos (male/female) online really have any subconscious effect on visitors?

What research says about human photos on websites?

There has been significant scientific research on this topic particularly for eCommerce websites. When you are considering a purchase decision, the main issue online is of trust. How do you know if a particular website is trust worthy? Taking lessons from TV advertising and general marketing principles, people running eCommerce websites think that associating photos of people with products engenders trust. Of course, human photos = increased trust is just a hypothesis. But is it really true?

To answer this, I analyzed several research papers (which are published in peer-reviewed scientific journals). Following are some of the main ones (along with excerpts):

Not just scientific research, real world A/B tests that I have seen also corroborate the hypothesis of human photos may increase conversion rate. Two of our customers used our A/B testing tool (Visual Website Optimizer) to test presence of human photos and its impact on conversions. Following sections detail what they did and what they found out.

Photos v/s Paintings (A/B test #1)

Medalia Art sells Brazilian and Caribbean art online. Since they are an online art shop, they showcase paintings from famous artists on their homepage. They decided to test what happens if paintings are replaced by the artists’ photos.

The goal for this A/B test was to increase visitor engagement (defined as a click on any link on the homepage; it is the inverse of the bounce rate). They didn’t use sales as a conversion rate as many of their sales happen after interaction on the telephone with the customer.

Here are the screenshots of the control (paintings) and the winning version (photos).

– Original (with paintings)-

– Variation (with photos)-

Results?: Medalia found out that with paintings the conversion rate was 8.8% but if paintings are replaced with artist photos, the conversion rate increases to whopping 17.2%. That’s an increase in conversion rate of more than 95%! (results were statistically significant) How cool is that for doing a slight change?

Photo v/s Generic icon (A/B test #2)

Another user, Jason Thompson, conducted an A/B test on his blog to see if replacing contact icon with his own photo would lead to more people contacting him. Following is screenshot of original and variation:

Original (with icon)

Variation (with photo)

3.7% conversion rate

5.5% conversion rate

Results clearly show that the version with Jason’s photo had 48% more conversions as compared to generic icon. (Again, results are statistically significant).

Jason commented on the test results:

People want to connect with other people emotionally, the photo makes that emotional connection so much easier and as the test is proving, drives people to the contact form more than a nondescript icon.

So, should you use human photo on your website?

There are hundreds of more research studies and probably more A/B test results that you can read but from what I have read and observed, here are some salient points about human photos on websites:

  • Human photos on a website definitely have positive impact on visitor’s first impression of trustworthiness
  • Human photos with focus on face have much better impact (as emotional connect is stronger)
  • Photos should be “real”. Visitors can tell when you are using stock photos
  • Most important conclusion: human photos are not panacea for all websites. Best is to A/B test photos v/s no photos on your website. Many research papers proved that in some cases, human photos may actually have a negative impact!

Hope you found this article useful. If you have any comments or suggestions, please let me know.


CEO of @Wingify by the day, startups, marketing and analytics enthusiast by the afternoon, and a nihilist philosopher/writer by the evening!

(22) Comments

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  1. Photo with generic icon(or like catoon alternatively) impresive

  2. Not just photos of real people help, but having real people on our website has helped us with conversions as well. Of course, I’m referring to live chat. Having an online client service rep is great for connecting with our prospects and building trust and confidence.

  3. What makes a restaurant website bad?…

    One thing that seems overlooked in a number of responses is the lack of Social Proof. If you’re restaurant is any good, then you should be bold about it by connecting to the API of an aggregator, such as Yelp or Foursquare. Here is an example of how t…

  4. […] never be sure of your customer’s behavior. Case studies have shown that featuring videos and photos on landing pages can dramatically increase a website’s conversion rate. Try implementing these variations when […]

  5. […] 8 Visual Design Techniques to Focus Attention on your Landing Pages Do human photos on a landing page increase sales and conversions? […]

  6. […] Puntualmente usar la cara de una persona en vez del tipico ícono de “contactanos” aumenta la efectividad del sitio web en un 48% segúnVisualWebOptimizer. […]

  7. Human photo give the trust and increase conversion rate.

  8. […] to add their avatar, logo, or picture next to the testimonial. It helps humanize the testimonial, giving it more credibility and maybe even increasing your conversions. […]

  9. […] to add their avatar, logo, or picture next to the testimonial. It helps humanize the testimonial, giving it more credibility and maybe even increasing your […]

  10. […] to add their avatar, logo, or picture next to the testimonial. It helps humanize the testimonial, giving it more credibility and maybe even increasing your […]

  11. Great information!

    So true about the photos in web site, I ´l will make a few changes on my own.


  12. […] to add their avatar, logo, or picture next to the testimonial. It helps humanize the testimonial, giving it more credibility and maybe even increasing your conversions. […]

  13. […] penelitian membuktikan kepercayaan pembaca lebih tinggi pada foto manusia ketimbang ikon […]

  14. […] yang bisa anda jadikan contoh antara lain; waktu terbaik untuk posting di blog Dan Zarella, atau Menguji landing page dalam menghasilkan konversi di visual website […]

  15. […] pages and increased conversion 102.5%, and plenty of other studies have been done about the impact of human faces on website conversion.8)Try a Video – Need to do some product ‘splanin? Try a video that shows off the benefits […]

  16. […] of people’s faces, particularly smiling faces, convert better than icons and drawings. When appropriate, consider including a photo that features someone […]

  17. […] fact that human photos in landing page increases sales and conversion rate (one of the A/B testing study found out that there increase in conversion rate of more than 95% when human photos were used […]

  18. […] to using stock photography. First, other people could use the same photos you did. And second, photos of real people have been shown to get higher conversions. Why? Because they’re more […]

  19. […] people can put a face to you, they will like and trust you more. People trust people more than a faceless, impersonal logo. So make sure to include a nice, clean-cut photo of yourself […]

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