For context:

Users can search for products and find listings of products with photo & product details. But there are also a lot of products with no product details & photo of the product, only a unique product title, location & seller.


Is it better to show these products as listings within the search results, with a placeholder image (usual grey mountain & sun) or use an archetype of the product (such as a generic bike for all bikes without a photo) with a disclaimer that the actual product may differ?

By showing the archetype-photo of a bike, it reaffirms the user that his search has indeed came up with bikes, instead of giving no visual feedback with the photo. What is your opinion on this?


When you're dealing with products and selling it's best not to show a photo of something that could possibly be mistaken for the actual product.

Users may buy based on what they can see in the photo and then get upset when something different arrives.

Stick to a generic place holder to make sure that the user is only buying based on their understanding of the product details available.

Your generic placeholder doesn't have to be the grey mountain and sun picture - I believe that Amazon use their 'smile' logo. Just be careful about what it might look like iff all listings have the placeholder image - you don't want the page to make the brand look bad so using a part of the brand logo (as Amazon does with their "smile") or some other part of the brand imagery, may be better than using the whole logo.

-Edit ----------------------------

To acknowledge Big_Chair's post - your generic image could also be category specific as long as it cannot be mistaken in any way for an image of the actual product.

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  • I agree indeed. That's the reason why I'm a bit shunning away from using real photos, I don't want to misguide the user. But I like your approach as well, using something else as the placeholder image, something brand-specific. Thanks for your input! – Rick P Dec 8 '17 at 12:51

What about a combination of both?

enter image description here

A category dependant, generic image instead of a global one.
This gives the user a little more feeling of the product, instead of just a generic image for everything, while simultaniously not confusing them with a real photo (if that is how you meant your second intention).

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  • Yes! That is indeed the intention! Thanks for your insights. The only issue with this, is that every category will need to have an image / icon that is recognisable for the category, but that sounds as the best solution indeed. – Rick P Dec 8 '17 at 12:49

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