I feel obligated to repost this invaluable bit of knowledge from the excellent UX Movement website.
When websites show content, they’ll usually use a headline and image. Headline and image quality is important in getting the user’s attention. However, the headline will always get the most attention no matter what. Here’s why.
You can easily visualize the image with the headline alone. But you can’t make out the headline with the image alone. Users won’t understand the image without the headline. But users will still understand the headline without the image.
When users see both together, they will naturally pay more attention to the headline because it has the context and details of a story that they can relate to. Users are looking for information, and a headline gives them more information than an image. However, the image can appeal to users’ emotions more. And that can reinforce the headline and give users the extra boost to click-through. Both are important, but the headline is most important.
Placement & Visual Weight
How can you apply this newfound insight to the way you design content? Since headlines attract more attention than images, you’ll want to place your headline before your image. This way users can immediately get to the headline without having to go through the image.
Another thing is to make sure that your image doesn’t have more visual weight than your headline. When an image is too large, users can easily get distracted. This slows them down from their task of getting information. To avoid this, balance the weight between your headlines and images, and let your headline do most of the talking.
When your image is louder than your headline, users waste their time staring at the image.
If you’re still not convinced of the claim through objective reasoning, take a look at Jakob Nielson and the Poynter Institute’s research. Their studies â€œused different methodologies, tested different users and different sites, had different goals, and were conducted at very different stages of the growth of the Webâ€ and they all concluded the same results. In Jakob’s own words:
When different people keep finding the same results year by year, it is time to take the findings seriously and to base Web design on the data and not on wishful thinking.
The results are in and the time to treat headlines with more respect is now. You may love looking at your image, but the user is looking at your headline.