What They See Matters: A New Guide on Image Testing

March 17, 2016

Have you ever picked out what you thought was the perfect gift for a friend or family member, only to find out when they opened it that it wasn’t quite what they  had hoped for? Thank goodness for receipts.

Communicators pick out “gifts” of a sort — pictures and words for audiences that we hope will be well-received. Our predictions about what will work might be spot on, or we might unintentionally serve up the communication equivalent of the Father’s Day tie that’s never worn.

How can you maximize the hits and minimize the misses? At Resource Media we focus a lot on visual communication and have found that testing images in advance with target audiences maximizes the hits. In other words, don’t presume others will see and react to a picture the same as we do. To assist more groups with testing visuals, we’ve produced a new visual storytelling best practices guide called What They See Matters – you can download a free copy here.

What They See Matters features five important takeaways based on common findings that have emerged in image-testing projects we’ve run in recent years, including focus groups on energy efficiency imagery and online experiments with energy and climate ads. Keeping tabs on results like these on Visual Story Lab and other research projects (such as Climate Outreach) can help spark ideas as you’re designing the most effective visuals for current campaigns and projects.

Topics addressed in the guide include question prompts to elicit feedback on photos, using a quick-glance test, isolating variables of interest, paying attention to sequencing, and watching out for hidden factors before drawing conclusions. The testing section of the guide also offers suggestions on planning a visual project and concrete tips for testing via focus groups and Facebook. It could make the difference between getting 500 or 1,500 online actions on your next campaign!

Here’s one of the illustrative examples from the guide on grouping photos differently to explore different research questions:


I will be speaking on What They See Matters at the Collaborations for Cause conference April 15-16 in Seattle. If you would like a speaker from Resource Media on image testing for your next conference, please contact us at vizcom@resource-media.org.

Jeff Cappella