I have an e-commerce store with products and categories. If the administrator doesn't upload a custom image of the product or category, what should be available to the user?

  1. a custom image with this text: "image not available"
  2. a custom image with a symbol and text: "image not available"
  3. Image transparent, so basically no image
  4. An image only with a solid color
  5. No image

What is the best approach and why?

2 Answers 2


You are talking here about an E-commerce store so actually you are talking about different kind of grids and list, and if you talk about grids and list then you talk about consistency and uniformity. When people are following a list or grid they expect to find a set of "identical" fields as structure so in the actual list you can not afford to have a picture missing.

Even on the product page, people actually relate a product very much to pictures so again it would be recommended to have a "dummy image" that can be identified clearly as a picture (something like an icon, with or without company logo). The best experience would be to have different dummy pictures for every product category Ex: for a "notebooks" category you should use a washed out simple icon displaying a basic drawn notebook.

And the part with "image not available" is really debatable, at least you should have the image ALT set to "image not available".


I wouldn't make a point of explicitly saying "image not available" in the listing - there's no benefit to the user in drawing their attention to that. I would normally either show no image for those items and allow the content to flow into the space or, more likely, use an unobtrusive generic placeholder image (often showing the company logo). The latter solution is good because it keeps the layout consistent (making it easy to scan up and down the list) and still provides a large clickable area.

  • If I have a page with twenty products, all with a custom image, and then two or three products without image, the layout will be inconsistent in my opinion. All products should have the same importance by default, even if the image is not available. So, I agree with the generic placeholder image
    – daniel__
    Jul 16, 2013 at 9:52
  • @loops Yes, it depends. I worked on a project where the client wanted products with images to stand out more than those without, so they decided not to include placeholder images and instead adjust the layout in each case.
    – Matt Obee
    Jul 16, 2013 at 10:01

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