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I am working on making the home page of a blog, and I want as many people as possible to click on the posts in the home page and read them.

I'm thinking of listing the post title, and then a quick summery, on the home page, with users having to click on the post title (or the read more link in the summery) to read the full post. It would look like this:

This is the post title

And this is the post summery.

My question is if I were to include a thumbnail on the left of the post title and the post summery, would more people be interested in (and read) the post?

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If anyone could give me a link to a study or test, that would be great. –  Christofian May 7 '11 at 21:07

7 Answers 7

If all you're going to place on the homepage is the titles and one-line summaries, then I don't think thumbnails will help you any. Users will see 10-15 titles, sub-titles and thumbnails, and they'll need to read them in order to decide whether to read each post or not.

What would help is also including the first paragraph or two, and an image. Not a thumbnail, but a medium-to-large image that catches your eye, and can actually convey a message and make the user instantly interested or at least curious. Thumbnails can't really convey messages, they can represent, but not present, content.

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Short answer: Yes, thumbnails (specifically images that represent the content) help click through rates.

People use thumbnails to scan content and decide if they want to read the article.

The most effective use of thumbnails can be seen on facebook ads. An interesting image with 1 or two sentences. Thats it. Then they click and get the article.

In my company we advertise on a variety of different ad networks which have different sizes and types. The best performing one is The Deck Which is just that, a small image and 1-2 sentences.

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"Yes, thumbnails (specifically images that represent the content) help click through rates" Do you have a reference for this, jon? –  gef05 May 9 '11 at 13:53
    
I am referencing my experience in advertising with facebook and the deck. –  jonshariat May 9 '11 at 16:02

Images can make the page more engaging, but at the end of the day a good title is what will make the reader click for more. I think it is difficult to convey enough information in a small image to make the user click on the link without them still having to read the link text, so the content of the title is still more important. Images will attract the viewer's attention as long as they are not ad-like or look irrelevant or common (like stock photo content).

When creating thumbnails it is general practice to simply rescale the original picture which might be featured in the full article. Sometimes this does not work well as the thumbnail could have a lot of detail squashed into a small area and the message in the picture is lost because nothing can really be seen in it. In this case, it is better to use some cropping as well as resizing to achieve a more eye-catching result. This way you can focus in on a point in the photo so that the details in the viewport are big and visible. You can make the shot more click-worthy by hiding some detail which might make the reader click on it just to get the full picture. You can tap into their natural curiosity.

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A picture is worth 1000 words, so my advice is to go for using a thumbnail. I analyzed many heatmaps for content websites and it showed clearly that users prefer to click on images that titles. But also, it really depends what audience you have and what thumbnails you use. People might be more attracted by the thumbnail but be unsatisfied with the content you provide after the jump. It is very important to find the right balance.

You can always do an A/B testing. Make 2 versions, with or without thumbnail, and analyze the results afterwards.

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Can you post links to some of these heat maps? –  Christofian May 12 '11 at 0:21
    
Unfortunately I can not since that is confidential information for my previous employer. But you can check this article and see how they got to the same conclusion. –  Marian May 12 '11 at 7:48

Christofian - Just a word of caution here. If your content is not simply a list of advertisements - if you do in fact have actual, real content - then adding a thumbnail will likely offer little nett gain.

In short:

  • If your users thinks the content sucks, the best thumbnails in the world wont help.
  • If your users thinks the content is good, the thumbnails will be a simple aesthetic unless you choose very carefully and actually impart meaning with them. As Vitaly says, hard to do with a thumbnail, easier with a larger image. NOTE that this does not mean the images are compelling your users to click, but are reinforcing the content.
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up vote 1 down vote accepted

There are a lot of different opinions on this question, so therefor I have decided to summarize everything that was said into this answer to make it easier to find the key points.

  1. Thumbnails are smaller than normal images, and therefor they convey less meaning, so you need to chose your thumbnails very carefully in order for them to be useful. If irrelevant thumbnails are used: at their best they will make no difference to click through rates and at their worst they will confuse the user.
  2. The larger a thumbnail is, the more user's will notice it. Use the largest thumbnails you can without sacrificing your design and your ux.
  3. Icons are an alternative to thumbnails, and if you don't have access to relevant thumbnails, you should consider using icons.
  4. However, if the thumbnails (or icons, if your using them instead) are relevant, they can help the user scan through your content and decide if they want to read it. They can also help click through rates.
  5. Thumbnails (or icons) are not an alternative for good content. In order for your thumbnails to help you, you also need good titles and summaries.
  6. If there is both an image and a headline/link present, users will often prefer to click the image instead of the text. Make sure you link your images.

If anyone has anything else to add (a study, perhaps), please post it here as an answer to this question and I will add it here to this answer. Thanks to everybody who has contributed an answer already: you have really helped me out :)

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6. If there is both an image and a headline/link present, users will often prefer to click the image instead of the text. Make sure you link your images. –  Erics Sep 29 '11 at 23:53

Design for mobile first - with no image extras, in fact with no images except where needed, e.g. in the content.

With that out of the way, place some code in your php to selectively enable the more bandwidth intensive, technicolor version for desktop/notebook PCs. There may be solutions for this within your blogging software.

Remember that it takes time and effort to include images with every post, consider using icons, e.g. how slashdot.org do it. Tabloid newspapers also provide inspiration, particularly the more gossipy ones where the picture thumbnails really do work, e.g. dailymail.co.uk

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I don't need to know how to add thumbnails to a website, I need to know if adding thumbnails will make more people interested in my content. –  Christofian May 12 '11 at 0:31

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