Catholic Culture Liturgical Living
Catholic Culture Liturgical Living

Request for feedback: Use of photos to grab attention

By Dr. Jeff Mirus ( bio - articles - email ) | Jan 13, 2023

The staff of CatholicCulture.org are currently evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of our website and certain potentially desirable new features. This will take some time, but there is one question in particular on which I would like as much immediate feedback from our users as possible.

Should we change our existing home page?

Our current home page is populated by many small tiles which lead to all the news, commentary, podcasts, and library items we’ve posted over the past week and a half. The recent Featured Content appears at the top, and then, as you scroll down, the material posted day by day comes into view, first for today, and then in reverse order by date going back ten days. The layout that separates each day from the previous day includes a small picture and information about the liturgical day that you are scrolling into (with a background color appropriate to the liturgical season).

This is extremely efficient use of space but it is not an attention-grabbing graphics design. CatholicCulture.org has never placed a big emphasis on the use of graphics in our pages. For example, the home pages of most other websites, Catholic or otherwise, are now full of photographs, with links to a correspondingly smaller amount of written or recorded content. We also find among our staff a generational difference between older staff who are not particularly interested in the flashier picture-driven layouts and younger staff who regard these as playing a vital role in attracting and retaining interest among potential viewers, readers and listeners.

A significant cost factor also enters in. The consistent use of contemporary pictures increases costs because:

  • The website needs a paid image subscription service and, more importantly…
  • The website needs a staff member who will select images and combine them with the written or recorded content in a timely manner, keeping pace with the posting schedules of our writers and podcasters.
  • Of course there is also the cost of doing a picture-flexible redesign in the first place, but that would be a one-time expense.

A word about advertising images

Right now the only graphics/pictures of significant size on our home page are the advertisements. Although we no longer accept paid ads, we do include our own promotional material at the top and along the right side of our pages, and we offer some free ad space to people or companies we wish to support because they are doing something of Catholic value. But I’ve noticed that many, perhaps most, of the solid Catholic websites (the ones we respect) have eliminated ad space altogether.

That’s not surprising, because there is very little money to be made with paid ads on the web any longer—so little, in fact, that it doesn’t make much sense for dedicated Catholic websites to bother selling their space. That’s essentially why we stopped accepting paid ads a couple of years ago. But we did not give up the idea of using the space to promote worthy causes (including our own ebooks, which of course are free).

And yet there is a significant advantage to eliminating ad space if you are designing a graphics-heavy site, full of its own pictures to grab attention for particular news stories or articles. It means that you don’t have to cram text AND photos into such a small space; instead you now have the whole page. There is still the drawback that, with an emphasis on more attention-grabbing images, you will not be able to link to as great a variety of material conveniently on your home page.

Feedback requested

So do we want a photo-rich design? We would truly value your opinion:

  • Would you prefer a more attention-grabbing display of images with fewer items linked on our home page?
  • Or do you value the content-intensive display of far more material that we represent with our simple tiled design?

We really do want to hear from you! Please email me at [email protected]. Thanks, and may God bless you for helping us clarify this decision.

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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Show 10 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: winnie - Jan. 17, 2023 8:58 AM ET USA

    The Drudge Report is an example of a very popular website set up very simply, so you can quickly scan through headlines to find what you want to read.

  • Posted by: winnie - Jan. 16, 2023 3:12 PM ET USA

    I like your homepage.

  • Posted by: wacondaseeds4507 - Jan. 16, 2023 1:02 PM ET USA

    Status quo for me. You already have my attention, but thank you for asking.

  • Posted by: kdrotar16365 - Jan. 16, 2023 9:03 AM ET USA

    Thank you for asking. I think pix are more of a distraction (and as you say, require more work and money) and like how it is now, though two of the previous suggestions concerning font size and the 1/3 blank columns of space on both sides of the text have merit. Pax et bonum.

  • Posted by: jdesiderio1032 - Jan. 15, 2023 1:48 PM ET USA

    I do not see any need for a change in your format. The daily liturgy is timely and appreciated in a busy work day. The links to articles and topics are convenient and give one sufficient information to decide whether or not to click and read. Pictures are nice, but hardly necessary.

  • Posted by: mverner1960 - Jan. 14, 2023 8:58 AM ET USA

    I personally like the short 'n sweet approach to web design. But I admit to being eccentric and likely counter cultural by visceral reaction - so recognize that I may be (likely am) not the target audience for your redesign. Either way I will always support you folks if the content quality continues at its current level.

  • Posted by: surelyyou7706 - Jan. 13, 2023 8:18 PM ET USA

    Photos not needed. I like the focus on content.

  • Posted by: grateful1 - Jan. 13, 2023 6:24 PM ET USA

    Thanks for asking about the look of the home page, Jeff. I don't see a need for images, but I do suggest enlarging the font & using more of the screen: the current font is small & hard-to-read, & although the text takes up the full length of the screen, it occupies only the central third of the screen's width (the third to its right & the third to its left are blank, giving a cramped look). I think both suggestions would make the home page easier to read & thus more welcoming & inviting.

  • Posted by: mary_conces3421 - Jan. 13, 2023 6:23 PM ET USA

    Personally, I always prefer more info, clearly labeled & logically organized, to attention-grabbers. I am tired of searching for relevant info on a website (my bank’s, e.g., or our diocese’s) & being met by photos, which are BIG, or constantly changing. I doubt that photos, inherently emotion-directed, would go far towards attracting people who would be interested in your reasoned, balanced content. And the cost—eek! (My opinion may be influenced by my age—OTOH, pandering to ephemeral tastes…?)

  • Posted by: Gramps - Jan. 13, 2023 6:22 PM ET USA

    No. Please do not change.