Just Stop It: The Curse of the Stock Image


Years ago I noticed that one of our company’s websites used an improbable image across the front page, which turned out to be a stock image. We had a rule in place about stock images which went something like “Don’t use them”. So when I saw the same image appearing on a Nicholas Sparks novel I contacted the web manager who promised to change it, and did about five years later.

In that case there was no reputation damage, in fact few people would have even seen both images and fewer would have made the connection. But what if we’d used a generic “people in office” image and then a magazine had used exactly that image to illustrate an article on say, cybercrime? Not an association you really want people to make about your brand.

There are other examples where choosing a stock image could be problematic; I’ve found customer testimonial images that appear to be someone else’s employee image and all traceable back to one stock photo. It casts doubt on those testimonials.

The testimonials on Cherry Apron Chef include two images of happy customers

 

Both people co-incidentally appear to work for SA softwares

And their colleague on the left seems to have migrated from Rome to Frankfurt, with the help of Expat Guide

“Marcello” also turned up in a website about Rand Paul’s election campaign. I guess the images were chosen to give readers the idea that that Mr. Paul has a wide and diverse group of followers, but it turns out that all the images are from shutterstock, and from a German-based photographer. So much for the local endorsements. Once this was spotted by internet sleuths the images were removed.

The problem with all these examples is that stock images do not grant you an exclusive licence, so other people can re-use the image in their own promotions.

On at least one occasion a stock image has been used to support views not held by the people in the image. Earlier this year a family photo was used in the campaign against gay marriage in Ireland – and the family came out in support of Gay Marriage.

And it gets even worse. This week Donald Trump’s twitter account featured this image to demonstrate his extreme patriotism, and position him as a future leader of the USA.

 

But the internet sleuths spotted something interesting. The soldiers on the lower right, don’t look American, in fact the experts quickly figured out that the image is a stock image from a war re-enactment. So the image used in Trumps campaign to demonstrate his great love of America featured people dressed as Nazi soldiers. The tweet has since been removed and the PR excuse is that it was a “young intern” and that Donald Trump had been somewhere else when the image was posted. So there was a campaign screw-up and Trump blames someone else, immediately. I couldn’t help thinking of a former leader of the USA who famously had a sign on his desk saying “the buck stops here“. So much for “real leadership”!

I understand that using stock images is a cheap way source quality images for your site. But you need to take care using them. I would suggest;

  • don’t use stock images of people to illustrate your employees or your customers, instead use photos of your employees and customers – with their permission! (See this post “Who the hell are these people?” and this post “Photographs of real people work better than inane stock images” from David Meerman Scott)
  • make sure the image is what you think it is, and if there’s doubt look for a new image
  • use the four eyes principle – so two people check every image that is used (no, one person wearing glasses does not count)
  • NEVER blame the intern; it’s your fault for not giving clear instructions, not checking the image, and not having a process in place to manage your content well

Or you could keep it really simple, and don’t use stock images.

 

Annoying Newsletter Management

Just Stop it

Today’s complaint is about newsletter management, specifically the sign-up and unsubscribe processes.

I’ve noticed that I’ve been signed up for newsletters on the basis of a single contact with the company, perhaps a service enquiry, or a downloading a white paper. I’ve also seen email suppliers making it hard to unsubscribe from unwanted newsletters. These two annoyances combine into one big annoyance with a company that really should know better.

Automatically Signing Me Up

Please stop signing me up for newsletters without a specific opt in. Just because I visited your site, or emailed you once does not mean I want to hear from you again. Let me opt-in. Do not make it a condition of using your services (looking at you, Microsoft).

  1. There are two things I do to avoid adding to the unwanted email;
    I have an email account that I use only for sites I think might spam me.
  2. I use a junk filter est to “exclusive” in Hotmail so I never see them.

Making “Unsubscribe” Impossible

At some point Microsoft started sending me  emails relating to their products and services to my Hotmail account. Pretty sure I didn’t sign up for it, but Hotmail belongs to Microsoft so I get it.

I clicked on the handy “unsubscribe” button at the bottom of one of these emails, and got this.


Outlook has not given Outlook any info to help me unsubscribe from them.

Translation; Microsoft does not let you unsubscribe from their emails in their own email service. That’s a design choice, they make it difficult for you to unsubscribe so that won’t do it.

The result is that they are now blocked.

I’ve used Microsoft as the example here, but they’re not the only ones guilty of random spamming. In the last month I have been signed up for newsletters from conference organisers, potential suppliers, and random companies who guessed my work email.

I’ve unsubscribed from them all. Where that hasn’t been possible I’ve flagged them as “junk”. If that happens often enough at work their email domain could be blocked.

Please, just stop it.

 Image; Stop | Brainware3000 | CC BY-2.0

Just Stop It: Website Overlays

Just Stop it

I hadn’t even  seen the article and the site wants me to sign up and to contact them. If this were a date I’d be sneaking out the back door, escaping the overbearing demands of my date. On this site it wasn’t clear how to get rid of the overlay, it took some random clicking to find that it’s removed by a click on the far left of the screen.

I’ve also seen overlays that whoosh into the middle of the screen if you move the mouse towards the upper tool bar, where the book-mark function is, the overlay attempts to entice you back to read more. But it often comes of as begging for your attention, in dating terms it’s the clingy boyfriend/girlfriend of the internet.

Have these been tested for usability? Am I the only person in the world that resents the interference with my reading time?

Please internet; just stop it.

 

Just Stop it

Just Stop it

 

 

 

Some things are really annoying me in my digital life, here’s a short list of the most annoying.

Please add yours in the comments.

1; Facebook, stop giving me a pointless warning page when I click a link

It’s a link to the New York Times and there isn’t a problem. If this is supposed to be preventing us from opening dodgy websites it fails since it happens on every link so the user (ie; me) learns to click past it very quickly.

Stop it.

2 Content Publishers, don’t make me download an app to read your content.

Given that they could use responsive design I don’t care about one piece of your content enough to use my data limit to download your app.

Stop it…. (cute turtles though).

3; Website designers, stop assuming I want Dutch content

I type in domainname.com and am flipped into the Dutch site, based on my IP address. Lots of guilty sites; google, expedia, msn to name three. I do understand the reason behind this, but make it easy for me to switch languages. Do not do what Kobo does – lets me change the platform language but still delivers content in Dutch (even with a login, it go so annoying that I deleted my account).

Just stop it.

 

Thanks I feel better for letting that out. So much better that this might become a series.

What are your digital “stop it” messages?