Whether you are doing a PowerPoint presentation of your business, adding a page on your website or writing a blog article, you will need images to break up your content and to illustrate what you are saying with text.

The simplest option is to go and buy your image from one of the large image banks on the web, like iStock Photo or Shutterstock. But of course this will cost some money, which you don’t always want to spend if you are a small business.

The idea of this article is to give you an overview of the different options available to find the images you need. And rather than just listing some links, we’ll also try them out with a real life image requirement to see how useful they are in practise.

So, here’s the challenge: We need an image of a truck on the road.

One of our clients is in the truck trade, so this reflects a real life requirement. I like it because it very clear to understand and at the same time specific enough for this exercise.

To define the requirement a little bit more, let’s say we need the truck to be European looking, not American. Also, the truck should be driving on the road, ideally on the motorway.

For those who think “Too long to read, just give me the links now!” here’s a summary of the options, ranked from most expensive to cheapest.

  1. Top quality image bank: Shutterstock
  2. Other image bank options: 123RF, Fotalia
  3. Image sourced on Flickr
  4. Totally free image banks: Pixabay, Pexels
  5. Original photo taken with a smartphone

NOTE: Going onto Google Images and stealing a copyrighted image from someone else is NOT an option, although it is absolutely allowed to browse images to get some inspiration.

Option 1: Shutterstock

Shutterstock is not the only image bank out there, but it is the one I tend to use when I need images for client projects. They have a great choice of quality images and graphics. When I need a lot of images for a project, I tend to get a monthly deal for 350 images at 160 €, which is great value, but if you only need a few images, you can either pay 49 € for 5 images without time limit or 49 € for 10 images to download within 30 days. If you do need 10 images, then this second option is reasonable, given the quality and choice of images. You also get the image in high resolution, in case you need it for print work.

So let’s start off with our image from Shutterstock. It can serve as a reference image to have something we can compare our options to.

 

As you can see, the advantage is that you get a “perfect” image: The truck is brand-new, it has no branding, the road is new, there is no traffic, and the sky is blue with just the right amount of clouds. For certain requirements, this might be “perfect”, for others this might be too staged and artificial.

It is worth noting that there is a definite advertising trend towards the use of more authentic images because authenticity has become a selling point and because images from image banks have become so overused that consumers simply do not react to them anymore. Look at this family for example:

They are happy because they use the best _________ (insert as required – toothpaste, bank account, home insurance, DIY Chain, family car, washing powder etc.).

Option 2: Fotalia / 123RF

Fotalia and 123RF offer slightly cheaper access, allowing you to buy credits, which you can then use to get images at different sizes. Fotalia charges 11,20€ and 123RF 13€ for 10 credits.

Below you see the result of our search on these sites. Overall, the quality is lower, the choice is less, but the price is also lower (3,50€ at Fotalia and 2,60€ at 123RF).

Option 3: Flickr

Flickr is a massive photo-community and many images are offered on what they call the creative commons license. That means that you need to attribute the image to the author when you use it. For commercial use, there are other types of licenses again, which might for example allow or forbid an image to be altered. Here’s an overview link on licenses if you’re interested.

The Flickr search options allow you to filter results based on the license to start with.

The other thing I found is that while the large image banks will show you the same images whatever the language, Flickr results are very different because the users give titles and tags to their images. So a search for “truck” brings up mostly American images, while the French word “camion” (or the German “LKW”) makes the results more European.

The other option you have in Flickr is to switch the search results between “relevant” and “interesting” in the top right, which might give you some interesting new options.

For this exercise, I found my images in a search for “camion”. You can see straight away that the results are “on topic”, but visually somewhat different from the reference image. They are also more authentic, and that’s definitely the strong point of this option.

CC image “A61 Soir de mai” by Yannick Gar on Flickr

CC image “audi A4” by Pittou2 on Flickr

 

Option 4: Pixabay

Pixabay is part of a relatively new breed of sites that offer beautiful large-scale images to download without any license restrictions at all. While this is a great place to find images, you will also find that the choice is comparatively small compared to the commercial sites, especially when it comes to niche topics. On the other hand, it might inspire you to think more creatively or laterally about your image requirement.

Of the dozen or so sites in this category, I also tend to look on Pexels and Unsplash, sometimes just for the great photography…and you shouldn’t be surprised to see some of the images over and over again on the web, because these sites are widely used by WordPress them makers and creative agencies.

As a reference, the site thestocks.im offers a good list of those sites.

Option 5: Smartphone

I live near a motorway where there are lots of trucks passing through, so finding some trucks to shoot wasn’t too difficult.

I still had to find an actual spot close enough to the road to get a decent shot. The result is quite reasonable, and while it has the merit of being authentic, the contrast and lighting are just random. It also took at least 45 minutes of a time investment, which is fine for 1 or 2 shots but not more.  

And the winner is….?

Well, there is no winner, really.

Every option has its merit because every project requirement is different. Decisions can be made based on style, price, colours or individual taste. At the very least, this is to give you a starting point for your search and to let you appreciate the differences between free and paid options.

Happy image searching 🙂

You saw the health warning right at the start: This page contains way too many popups, 13 in total to be exact.

At least here you get a warning, unlike many other websites, where you have barely arrived on a page and they are already harassing you with special offers or requests to join the mailing list.

Annoying behaviour like that is precisely the reason to write this article. Popups are a powerful tool to get a user’s attention, but if their implementation is not thought through properly they will drive people away instead of attracting them.

Before diving into the details, here’s a short summary for those who are rushed for time:

This article shows you the best features of the premium WordPress Popup Plugin ConvertPlug, which can be found here on CodeCanyon. The plugin allows you to position Popups of all shapes and sizes pretty much everywhere on a webpage, with a range of templates to choose from to get you started. The most powerful features are the trigger mechanisms, allowing you to show your Popup content either based on a timer, when the user scrolls to a certain part of a page or when a user wants to leave a page. This allows you to show messages to users at a time they are the most likely to respond.

The plugin comes with an analytics dashboard to see what’s working and what’s not and a number of extra features to target different types of user behaviour, such as detecting new vs. returning visitors and connections from mobile devices.

 

Let’s have a Popup party

This article is a logical follow-on from the previous post about form plugins. A form will typically be shown once a user makes his own decision to click on a button or to visit a certain page. A Popup is a more active tool that can make that decision happen by getting his attention at a certain point in time.

To use this tool in the right way you must spend some time to try and understand a user’s behaviour patterns and frame of mind in different situations while visiting your site. The magic marketing buzzword here is user “engagement”. Definitions for this vary slightly, but here’s just one for reference:

 

User engagement is an assessment of an individual’s response to some type of offering, such as a product, a service or a website. An individual’s degree of engagement may be determined directly through interaction or may be assessed through observation of the user’s behaviours. A website user, for example, might click links, comment, download documents and watch videos, among other possibilities.

 

The problem with this definition is that the most important part isn’t included. And that’s what I would call the initial engagement. By initial engagement I mean the first few moments I spend on a webpage reading the content. The problem is of course that this part is difficult to measure because there is no clear action on my part that indicates whether I like the content or not.

At the same time this point is absolutely crucial: In the next 60 seconds, I will subconsciously make my mind up about whether I like the content I am reading and the website as a whole. If I am a new visitor, I am also a little bit unsure and have to feel my way around the new surroundings. This is quite a delicate phase, any negative impression and I click myself away. So not really a moment to ask me to commit to something, yet you still find this behaviour everywhere.

Unless spamming people is part of your business model, there is a very simple solution for this: Don’t do it. Let your content do the work, that is what it’s there for. In my opinion it pays to tread carefully at the beginning and to let your user come to you.

With this in mind, let’s start with a short explanation of why we chose to review ConvertPlug here. There are of course free popup plugins available such as Popup Builder and Popup Maker, but their lack of controls for when they are triggered make them more part of the problem, not the solution. For the paid plugins on CodeCanyon, ConvertPlug comes about third among the best-sellers in the WordPress Popup category behind Ninja Popups and Layered Popups. The others look like great solutions too, but ConvertPlug looked like they had really well thought about the trigger points and targeting features. They all have live preview sites, so you can easily see which solution might be best for you.

 

Enough talking, I want Popups now.

Enough talking, I here you say, show me some Popups!

Let’s start with a selection of standard formats:
(Note: The Info bar popups work only once by default, refresh your page to see them again)

 

Modal Popup

Info bar top

Slide-in left

Full screen

Info bar bottom

Slide-in right

Next, we have the so-called “sticky” formats, that leave a reminder when you close them.
(Note: Once activated, they remain in a constant active state, so no other popups can be activated.)

Sticky Popup left

Sticky Popup right

 

Although not strictly a Popup, you also can place messages within or at the end of content like this:

 

 

As you can see, popups can be used to draw attention to all kinds of messages:

Promotional offers, other interesting content, social sharing, newsletter sign-up, request to contact or help documentation

 

More Popups

Now let’s show you the different triggers.

Exit intent trigger: See it in action by trying to close the page or open a new browser tab.

Scroll trigger: You simply set a scroll percentage for the page and the Popup is launched when the user reaches that point. The scroll trigger will cause conflicts with the other Popups, so we have to show it on a separate page here:

 Timed trigger: Wait for 5 seconds to see the timed Popup appear. You can see these in action on this test page:

 

Additional features    

 

To complete this review, here is a round-up of some other really useful features:

  • Integrated analytics panel to track the performance of your Popups. The plugin lets you create and track different variations of the same Popup so you can do A/B testing on different headlines for example.
  • You can also show different content to returning visitors and have a cookie control setting that allows you to hide Popups a user has already seen or clicked on. For the popups in this article this has been disabled.

There are a few additional features and add-ons that go beyond the scope of this overview. They are all outlined on the ConvertPlug website. There is however enough time for just 1 more thing: The video Popup: Just click on the image below.

Kaarma assists small and growing companies in presenting themselves professionally online and in the real world. Feel free to contact us if you need help with the design or functionality of your WordPress website or if you have some other communication needs.

Sign up to our newsletter below if you want to keep updated on the communication topics we cover.

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I have had a few projects recently, where we added some functionalities to webpages by using what’s called a ‘Form Plugin’. This type of plugin allows you to build all kinds of forms to collect data from your visitors while they are on your site.

No time to read it all ? Just check out the sample forms here:

 

contact_us_en register_img_en newsletter_en
apply_en rate_en win_en

 

The most common example of this that you might already be using is the contact form: The visitor fills in a few fields and the contents of the form are sent to you by email. Before we look at other uses for forms, here is first a little round-up of the solutions that are out there. The focus here is specifically on plugins that can be used with WordPress.

With Contact Form 7, Formidable Forms and Ninja Forms there are some free plugins available. Contact Form 7 has been around for a while. You can do a lot of things with it, but the user interface is a bit complicated to use because it has not evolved from when it was first released. The other two aren’t really free, as they offer only basic functions in their free versions. To make more interesting forms you have to upgrade to their paid plans. Formidable is $49/year and Ninja is $99/year for one site. If you are happy to pay an annual fee or if you need specific functionality for e-commerce, then Gravity Forms is a well-established option at $39/year. (All prices are valid at time of writing…)

I personally try to avoid paying on-going fees as much as possible for myself and my clients, especially as those can quickly add up if you need to add different functionalities to your site. Luckily you can find some good alternatives on codecanyon created by independent developers that charge a one-off license fee. From the list of best-selling form plugins, I looked more closely at Quform and FormCraft and ended up choosing FormCraft as my favourite because their user interface is well designed and the forms have a nice modern-looking flat design. Cost-wise this form builder comes to $39, which you only pay once.

 

OK, so let’s get to the interesting part, actually using this tool.

What can you do with it that you can’t do with a free tool?

As a start, it will save you time and money because the well-structured user interface will make it easy and quick to create and edit your forms. In terms of functionality, you will be able to build user-friendly forms with more or less complex logic where certain fields are only show when they are needed. This keeps your forms short initially and does not scare people away from filling them in.

And finally, you get all kinds of design freedom to make your form look as good as possible by adding in colours, fonts, your logo, images and icons.

So let’s start with a contact form that has a bit more functionality than the usual comment box to help your customers with their inquiry. If you are a communications agency like we are, you can request some additional information in your form to better qualify the inquiry at the first point of contact. In our case, this allows us to respond quicker and better to customer requests.

NOTE: all the following forms are for demonstration purposes only and no data is saved.

 

Example 1: Contact Form

contact_us_en

 

Next, you can use a form to let users easily register for an event. We have put this type of solution in place for several clients who offer coaching seminars. This form demonstrates that it is also possible to do some calculations within the form. Combined with another add-on from FormCraft, you can even add credit card payments directly into the form (not included here).

 

Example 2: Registration Form

register_img_en

 

If you have a newsletter, you can also make a nice form it. This time the form is embedded straight into the page.

Example 3: Newsletter Form

""
1

Demo form only. No data will be sent.

Name
email
Previous
Next

 

If you have a jobs page for your open positions, you can easily create a custom form for each post, where applicants can upload their documents directly on your site.

 

Example 4: Job Application Form

apply_en

 

You want more ways to use forms on your site? Here are 2 more:

You can turn your form into a quiz, giving you a simple tool to run competitions on your site.

Example 5: Competition

win_en

Finally, you can also design a simple form to run a customer satisfaction survey without having to use other third party services. This sort of approach will work well if your responses do not exceed a few hundred. beyond that, it will be better to use a dedicated service like Survey Monkey.

Example 6: Customer Survey

rate_en

 

As you can see, a form plugin like FormCraft can be quite a versatile tool to add functionality and interactivity to your site. For certain situations where you need to get a visitor’s attention, a form works better when it is used together with a PopUp plugin that brings up the form at a certain point in time during the users visit. We cover this in more detail in an upcoming article.

Kaarma assists small and growing companies in presenting themselves professionally online and in the real world. Feel free to contact us if you need help with the design or functionality of your WordPress website or if you have some other communication needs.

Sign up to our newsletter below if you want to keep updated on the communication topics we cover.