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I am currently rebuilding an e-commerce website from scratch. The design that has been created for the new site features a lot of large images, which looks pretty good. However: not all pictures in our product database meet the size and quality requirements for this format. We are in the process of acquiring better pictures, but this will not be completed before site relaunch. Many of the pictures in the database are no more than 100~150px wide, and I'm writing a script that will purge the database of these 'useless' pictures. This brings up the problem: what if there are no quality pictures available at all?

Do I leave low quality ugly pictures in place, or do I remove them and replace them with a placeholder?

In favor of leaving bad images in place:

  • At least there will be something to see.

Against:

  • Stretched up, pixelated pictures will 'ruin' the design.
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    I thought you meant stock photos and was very much ready to say no picture at all; of course it's very different when they're practical images, regardless of quality. – Ben Brocka Aug 8 '12 at 11:34
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    Isn't there another option - keep the smaller low-quality images but don't scale them, keep them as thumbnail size. – JonW Aug 8 '12 at 12:41
  • Can you show an example of one of your low quality pictures? I think we may all be a much better place to judge then. – Lisa Tweedie Aug 9 '12 at 2:09
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From a UX perspective - KEEP the bad images.

The user will want to know what they're buying and if the image is bad/stretched it still gives a certain % of the total information available. This gives the user an improved holistic view of their order. You may lose sales by removing the images if user's won't order without knowing, for example, what shade of blue their coolbag is.

From a UI perspective - get rid of them.

It's your call. Do you want a functional website with good sales, or a nice looking site which is a less pleasurable experience and as such risks lower sales? I think e-commerce is one of the places UX trumps all - and that's coming from a UI designer! UX brings sales and saled make the website business work!

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I wasn't sure whether to post this as a comment or an answer. I faced this problem before, and instead of stretching the images, I re-did them using a light color background (could have a very subtle texture) and leaving the original picture in the middle, at its true size. If you have two instances of the same pic (small for index, big for details, for example) you can tell the css to add this box (if pic small, do this; if pic big, do that) depending on where it's being shown.

Something like:

enter image description here

1

Leave bad images. Bad picture is better than no picture at all.

Imagine that you are browsing e-bay site and you found two same products but first with bad picture and the second without it. Which one do you prefer to like and buy?

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