Website images are more than just pretty, nice-to-have assets aimed to aesthetically please visitors. From retail to financial services to media, industries across the board are leveraging images -- from hero graphics that redirect visitors to the latest flash sale, to interactive charts that compare different services, to product images with 360-degree views or VR capabilities -- strategically to create better customer experiences and ultimately drive revenue.
But the process of getting those images up and running on an organization's website or mobile app is much more complex than a webmaster selecting a file and clicking an upload button. There are a variety of players who have a seat at the table to discuss image management from designers to IT managers to marketing pros to developers. However, all too often, these different departments operate in silos, hindering communication about the overall image workflow and slowing the process to a crawl.
Breaking Down Image Silos
Breaking down these department-based silos is critical to effective image workflows, as each department brings value to the table, adds more clarity to the overall workflow within the organization, and makes the process more efficient and scalable. For example, IT helps the team understand how the images are stored, cached and delivered, whether using a content management system, a digital asset manager or another type of storage. Marketing brings insights on which type of images are leading to higher engagement, and as a result, higher conversions and revenue. Developers help the team understand the underlying logic that helps optimize and deliver the images to the website or mobile app, which gives marketers and IT a glimpse at the complexities beneath the hood so they can set realistic expectations in their overall plans.
So how do you go about breaking down these silos to establish the right workflow that ensures all -- not just some -- of your business's goals are met? Let's explore four key steps.
Step One: Gather Stakeholders & Align Goals
It's critical that all of the right stakeholders come together to agree upon a common set of goals -- and ensure that they align to the high-level business goals of the organization. From image designers, to marketing, to web developers and IT, images mean different things for different teams within an organization -- all of whose roles and objectives differ drastically. For example, while marketers care about how many visitors an image is driving to a flash sale page, IT teams are chiefly concerned with web performance and making sure that image doesn't drag down page load time or crash the site altogether. The third voice in these discussions - web developers - focuses on releasing images with agility and scale, while thinking about which transformations they need to apply on the fly (e.g. watermark, blur, etc.). All parties must be present on behalf of their departments to guarantee that their voice is heard and concerns are taken into account during an open discussion.
Step Two: Put Yourself in the Shoes of the "Other" Departments
To maximize the productivity of these discussions, each constituent must attune themselves to the needs of other departments and ask thoughtful questions to drive collaboration. For instance, other departments should come away understanding what the IT team's ideal image size is, at what image size is performance of the website negatively impacted, and whether an image can be converted to additional formats to best suit the device of the end user.
Questions directed at marketing can range from "What is the feedback from customers who have been interacting with images on the website or mobile app" to "Have you A/B tested different image quality levels to better understand customer behavior? The final piece of the puzzle is the developer perspective, who can shed light on how images are being stored and cached to provide a better user experience, and what needs to happen if we need to update any given image. Asking questions about other teams' needs opens the lines of communication and helps all parties reach a mutually beneficial solution more quickly.
Step Three: Keep Your Eyes Set on the End Goal -- Exceptional End User Experiences Stakeholders must remember that all parties involved are striving to deliver exceptional end user experiences on the organization's website and/or mobile apps. Once all stakeholders align to this overarching goal, further aligning individual goals to business goals should come naturally. From here, inter-department conversations tend to open up, and trade-offs are made between image quality and performance.
Step Four: Identify Gaps in Existing Workflow
Once this conversation takes place, stakeholders are more easily able to identify gaps in their existing processes. The gaps could be as simple as agreeing upon a common storage location for all images, or as complex such as applying dynamic transformations on all images that are served to an iOS device in the APJ region. For the most complex gaps, businesses can leverage image management solutions that can help to: simplify and automate their image creation and management workflow for operational efficiency; minimize storage cost and improve consistency of experience and scale across end user devices; reduce image weight on their digital properties for improved performance gains and better user experience; and deliver attractive images to their end users that are automatically optimized for both maximum visual quality and performance.
The net net: All invested parties must talk through what needs to happen from the moment a photo is created in the studio to the time it gets published onto your website and mobile apps. This will enable you to identify opportunities to streamline and automate parts of your image workflow, leading to greater cost savings, such as faster time to market, and ultimately an improved customer experience.
About Parag Pathak: Parag Pathak leads go-to-market efforts for solutions around Customer Experience, Digital Transformation and Global Cloud Enablement at Akamai Technologies.