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Managing images and assets on your website

  • By 3chillies

Images, videos and other media assets such as infographics and PDF reports are a critical website ingredient that help lift the overall web experience, define your brand and provide valuable content to attract users.

Despite this, images and other assets don’t always receive the attention they should do in terms of ongoing management and governance. For example, we frequently find that the media library within a Content Management System (CMS) is full of files that shouldn’t be there or is chaotically structured with duplicated folders.

Recently we posted about the importance of having content governance in place for your website, listing ten essential elements including image and asset management. In this follow up post we’re going to explore this area in more detail. Below we list seven essential elements of image and asset management that will help ensure your site remains on brand, compliant and accessible, while also ensuring there is good performance.

  1. Define image and asset standards and guidelines
  2. It’s only possible to meet certain standards around images and files unless you define what those standards actually are. Frequently the details around images might be buried within your brand guidelines, but it can be useful to create a specific guide around images and assets that cover areas such as brand compliance, file size, image ratios, accessibility, use of stock photos and more, and also covers other assets such as the use of PDFs and videos.

    To also help enforce these standards, particularly if you have a community of content contributors outside the central web team, it helps to provide shorter guidelines with the main points to remember.

  3. Actively manage your media library
  4. Perhaps the most important practice mentioned in this article is the need to actively manage your media library or digital asset management (DAM) system so that assets and images within it adhere to your standards. This reduces the chance of the wrong asset being added to a page, and also encourages you to take more care over managing files on an ongoing basis.

    Unfortunately, managing the media library tends to be fairly low down in the “to do” list of very busy web teams. However, it is always worth keeping an eye on because at 3Chillies we have had instances where an overgrown media library has negatively impacted a client’s website performance. If you can find time to clean it up and remove any unwanted files, it’s then very easy to manage it on an ongoing basis to stop it getting out of control again.

  5. Optimise images and files for performance
  6. All too often when image and asset files are too large, they can slow down the load speed of your page. Always make sure that there is a recommended or ideal file size for any image or asset in your media library and that any authors or content owners have appropriate guidance. Of course, an image should not be reduced in size so much that it impacts the user experience, and looks pixelated, for example.

    The other factor is the number of images and assets per page that can also impact performance and load times. The bottom line is that images and assets should never negatively impact page load times.

  7. Establish owners for reports and files
  8. In our recent post about content governance, we stressed the importance of having clear ownership of individual pages across your site, with clear responsibilities, for example in reviewing pages and making changes. The same rule applies to assets such as PDF reports, as well as media assets including videos and infographics.

    In particular, PDFs are not always controlled or owned by the web team, but it is still content that may need to be reviewed on a regular basis, with a clear process for any updates that need to be made. Having an ultimate owner of each PDF and clarity over responsibilities is the starting point for this.

  9. Establish a brand portal or hub
  10. Much of the detail around image standards overlaps with brand standards which deal in detail, for example with logos and their use, and potentially in the use of brand-approved images.

    Sometimes access to logo files, brand approved images and any related guidelines can be made through a brand portal or hub; this can be also made available to third parties such as your design agency. Having a brand portal makes it easier for content contributors to access and use the right logos and images to use on web pages, and to learn about their correct usage. Overall, it can be a useful component of your overall approach to image and asset management.

  11. Make sure images and assets are accessible
  12. Accessibility is an area where web teams have good intentions – often to meet AA level of the WCAG 2.1 guidelines – but where their content doesn’t always comply. Images and other assets are areas where teams often fail on accessibility.

    Some of the main ways to improve the accessibility of images and assets is to:

    • Make sure that colour contrasts within an image, but also with an image and its background, are accessible. There are a number of free tools where you can test colour contrast for accessibility.
    • Use transcripts and captioning when posting videos.
    • Make PDFs more accessible when creating them, for example using software from Adobe.
    • Always ensure images have alt text within them in your CMS.

    We’ll be covering accessibility in more detail in another follow-up post soon.

  13. Make sure you’re OK with attribution and copyright
  14. Another obvious area to watch for, particularly relating to images, is to ensure that you have any copyright for anything that is posted onto your live site. You also need to add any required attribution.

    Copyright is generally only a problem when you have a devolved number of content owners who may not be aware that it is not OK to post images that they have found via Google. This an area where content owners and publishers require guidance on that they can and cannot post. There are also other ways to mitigate risks including:

    • restricting access to managing the media library
    • emphasising the use of brand-approved images available in the library or via a brand portal
    • advising publishers to use a resource like Unsplash with copyright-free images.

Actively managing your images and assets

Images and assets are as important as other your web pages. There needs to be active and ongoing management to ensure they are up to date, compliant and optimised for performance.

If you’d like to discuss managing your images and assets for your website, then get in touch!

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