All Collections
Design Standards
How to Select Images for Responsive Design and Accessibility
How to Select Images for Responsive Design and Accessibility

A guide to selecting images that are appealing, accessible, and adaptable across all devices.

Updated over a week ago
Selecting Images for Accessibility and Responsive Design

Finding the right images for your website can be daunting enough, but there's more to consider than just aesthetics. When choosing images for the modern digital landscape, two pivotal concepts emerge: Accessibility and Responsive Design.

  1. Accessibility ensures websites are usable by everyone, including those with physical, visual, audio, and cognitive impairments.

  2. Responsive Design focuses on creating sites that adapt seamlessly to multiple devices and screen sizes.

Grasping these ideas is crucial, especially when selecting images for your website. This guide offers strategies and best practices to choose images that are not only visually appealing but also align with these essential standards, making your website both beautiful and universally accessible.

Recommendations for Optimized Image Selection

The following list outlines key strategies and best practices to ensure your images not only look great but also function optimally across all devices and screen sizes. Let's explore these essential guidelines.

Responsive Image Hero Background

Contrast for Readability

For image backgrounds (where live text is present) opt for photos with deeper tones to ensure text is legible against the background.

Simple & Clean Composition

Complex images can lose their effectiveness when viewed on smaller screens. Opt for images with simple compositions.

High Resolution for Scaling

Use high-resolution images that can scale down without losing quality. This is particularly important for high-density displays, like Retina screens.

Flexibility / Plenty of Space for Cropping

Select images that maintain their impact and composition when cropped or resized. Avoid images with important details at the edges, which might be lost in different screen sizes.

Container Aspect Ratio

Select images with aspect ratios that match those of the container (Space on the website) they are intended for. This helps to maintain visual integrity and prevents distortion or unwanted cropping when viewed across different devices and screen sizes.

Avoid Close-Ups

Images are cropped in different ways on different devices, so close-up images offer less space for cropping, and may display in undesirable ways as the website adapts to different screen sizes.

Avoid Graphis & Embedded Text

Images that include graphics or text are not compatible with legal standards for accessibility and responsive design. To maintain visual integrity on all devices and to ensure your website is accessible to everyone, even those with visual or cognitive impairments, we strongly advise against the use of images with graphics and text on a website. See Why this is Important.

Hero Image Alignment & Aspect Ratio

Hero image containers (those at the tops of pages) are designed to flex and scale in different proportions depending on screen size and the amount of content in that area. Ideally, photos for hero container backgrounds should be shot horizontally (Landscape) and taken from a reasonable distance to allow for proper cropping as the website adapts to different screen sizes. The subject should be positioned so that their face remains visible and isn't obscured by the page title or other text in the hero section. For reasons mentioned earlier, we strongly advise against the use of graphics in hero background containers.

Example of Adaptive Image Containers in a Responsive Design:

In Conclusion

The proper selection and handling of images is a vital aspect of responsive web design. By adhering to these guidelines – from choosing the right contrast for readability to ensuring high-resolution images for scaling – you can significantly improve your website's functionality and aesthetic appeal. Remember, the goal is to create a visually engaging and accessible website that performs seamlessly on any device. Keep these practices in mind to make your website stand out in the ever-evolving world of digital design.

Did this answer your question?