UX Writing question - which makes most sense to average app users: Images or Pictures as a user term?

Touchgram has a Picture Background on a page but I'm opening up the document type to be able to drag images from macOS as well as send from other apps.

Coming soon is building up a page with overlaying smaller images as icons, stickers etc. I naturally use the word Images but need to settle on what to use in user terms. Pictures kind of made more sense when the only sources were the Camera or Camera Roll.

Context: Touchgram is an iMessage app that allows you to build interactive messages with gesture recognition on one or many pages. It's meant for regular consumers, not design professionals, hence my caution over language.

  • and if you think I'm stewing unduly about this, you should have seen me when I realised that "Trigger" might be an uhh, "trigger term" for some people and finally settled on "Sensor" and "Sensing"
    – Andy Dent
    Apr 26, 2020 at 3:57
  • 1
    I would go with the more common one (25B results on google for image, 9B for picture). For me as a non-native English speaker I wouldn't even recognize the difference.
    – Nash
    Apr 28, 2020 at 6:26

2 Answers 2



A cartoon showing a person with a speech bubble saying - should I go to the shop or walk there

Designers sometimes overthink things, and I have a gut feeling this question is possibly an example.

One of your main roles in UX, most of the time at least, is to reduce users' performance load (cognitive and physical). Given the context you have provided, I fail to see how the choice between "pictures" and "images" can have an effect on users - seems to me both are fine.


Collins on "picture":

  • A picture consists of lines and shapes which are drawn, painted, or printed on a surface and show a person, thing, or scene.
  • A picture is a photograph.
  • Television pictures are the scenes which you see on a television screen.

And these definitions are what I think of as a "picture".

An "image" is anything that hits your retina. So, subjectively, I would go for "images".

There are Always Surprises, Nearly

Two people conducting user testing using lo-fi mockups

If you ever done user-testing after an expert evaluation, you know that there are nearly always surprises (experts say X, in user testing you see Y). So probably the best thing to do is a bit of user testing.

Gorilla testing is probably better than no testing. Sure, it is not statistically rigorous (most user testing experiments aren't anyhow), but sometimes the responses show a very strong trend.

You could:

  • Create a lo-fi or hi-fi mockup of the app.
  • Show it to people (street, friends, Mechanical Turk) you think fit the target audience.
  • Do not use the word "picture" or "image" (or any related words), just use "these things".
  • Ask: what would you call it?
  • I have to pick a word to go on a tab. As I'm mostly a developer, with amateur designer hat, I try to avoid what I'd intuitively pick. Yes I do user testing but cannot in person right now hence asking across a range of forums. Am working on article about some of the design surprises after much thinking! BTW I picked "image" based on consensus it was more general.
    – Andy Dent
    Apr 29, 2020 at 2:22

If you asked me from a non-UI/UX context, I would say...

A picture is something you would take with a camera - basically a real scene.

An image is anything else (but technically can include pictures).

An example would be if I take a screenshot of my computer, that is an image. If I use a camera to capture it, that is a picture.

So from that, use the appropriate word for the context of dominant usage.

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