What are best practices for using visual elements on public reporting websites?

Simplicity and consistency.

 
Visuals (photos, cartoon characters, videos, etc.) are important: Use them more than text
 
Visual elements need to mean something and connect to an intended message. They can increase the appeal of the website, help visitors feel welcome, gain their trust, enhance site credibility, and maintain their interest throughout their visit. But if people don’t find images appealing, trustworthy, or relevant, they will either ignore the information or have a negative reaction to the site. 
 
We asked consumers to test eight Alliances’ public reporting websites. Here is what we learned about the best ways to employ visuals on your website. 
 
Keep visuals simple, appealing, and relevant. Our focus group participants often did not identify with images on websites we tested. For instance, many participants felt the site was geared for older people, people who are not overweight, or people otherwise unlike them.
 
Use visuals representing various genders, ages, weights, races/ethnicities, and even family units (e.g., parents with children as opposed to older individuals). 
Engage visitors with images of people involved in healthy behaviors, such as walking a dog or riding a bicycle. 
Test visuals with your audience to ensure they are appealing and relevant.
 
Videos. Videos must be relevant and briefly described to capture interest. Our testing showed that participants would not click on video clips if, based on reading the description of the initial image, they thought the clips were not appealing, trustworthy, or interesting. 
 
Social media icons. Participants generally did not notice icons such as Facebook and Twitter unless they were avid users of them. Add descriptive text to the Facebook and Twitter icons and include a call to action like Follow us or ‘Like’ us to stay up-to-date on health care news.