Insights
2 min Read
January 26, 2012

Screen-filling Visual Goodness

Big Duck

For a while now I’ve been looking to employ a nifty little trick in web design: the use of browser-filling imagery to impress. I’m talking about screen-filling visual goodness taking over your browser window. Why would anyone do such a thing?

The more we share photos and watch TV and movies online, the more we get used to having immersive visual experiences on the web. Users are coming to expect not just information but an experience from the websites they visit.

Take the website for the Call of Duty video game for example. (Don’t judge me for loving this). See how juicy and rich that image is? Feel like you’re in battle yet? Pretty great right? We should totally play video games right now. The large image mimics the experience of playing the game. It’s a large-scale promotion for a very large scale, experience-rich product.

It used to be that we’d have to fit our designs into a fairly small space so that folks like my dear mother could view it on an outmoded computer with a small monitor and an old browser. (Hi Mom!) With newer, larger monitors the restrictions are loosening. And now that my mom actually has a nicer computer than I do, it’s safer than ever to start pushing those larger designs!

Seamless.com screen shot
Another example of large imagery setting the stage for a website.

Websites with bigger, bolder images are becoming more common and the best ones still pay attention to that hallowed web ground: the “web safe area” where content can be seen by most people.

Let’s get back to that Call of Duty site. Open it up. Notice as you stretch the browser wider and wider the image fills the browser but the login button, logo, and content modules all fall within that 960 pixel wide sweet spot, the current-day, generally accepted web safe area. You get the cinema feel of a large image but you can still access all the important content.

So we can do big images now, but do we need to? The short answer is no. What is the goal of your website? Is it about capturing an experience you want your audience to have, like volunteering overseas? A large, inspiring image could be good for that. But if your site needs to get of lot of detailed information to a viewer as quickly and clearly as possible, maybe you don’t want to distract them with a huge picture.

The good news is that designers have more room to work with. Whether that larger space is used for the clear organization of lots of information, or a single, large and inspiring photo, web users are having more in-depth experiences online. If you haven’t already, maybe it’s time you bought your mom a nice new computer?

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