The Long and Arduous Epic Story of the Hero Image

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The long and ardous epic story of the hero image

A little bit of trivia for guys out there who are wondering why hero images are called as such. The term “hero” was first used in the world of theater, and it was the prop (it’s usually called the hero prop) that is more detailed than usual because it’s meant to be seen or viewed in close range. One good example of a hero prop is the DeLorean Time Machine from the film franchise “Back to the Future”.

So if you thought that hero images had something to do with comic book characters in capes and gadgets, then you are a tad bit far off. But still, their modern-day purpose in web design can be almost like that of a superhero in that they can save the day.

But how did the hero image come to be? Where did it start? How did it become the hottest trend in web design since popups and splash pages?

Origins in Traditional Media

When the idea of hero images first came out, people were a bit worried about it. A lot of people say that having a very large image on the front page might not be the best thing to do. Others think that it was just a very tacky way to say, “I’m creative. Get over it.”

Man drinking coffee reading a newspaper

People forget that hero images, or at least the idea of hero images, have always been in use, even in traditional media. When was the last time you visited a newspaper stand? They may not be that common these days, but I am pretty sure you can recognize one when you see one. Ever noticed how most newspapers are always using large images on the top-half fold of their publications? According to some newspapers I know, this is to attract buyers who will be intrigued by the images. Some well-known and respectable newspapers use images of people of interest, recent happenings, or emotion-provoking pictures. Other, less popular newspapers usually go for racy pictures or controversial images to pique the interest of passers-by.

Why Use Hero Image in Modern Web Design?

Website impression infographic

If it worked in traditional mediums like newspapers, it should probably work with modern web design as well, right? With where modern web design is going these days, that’s a big yes. Gone are the days when the page-by-page design appeals to your audience. Most websites nowadays are following a more storytelling approach in their design.

Fun fact: Did you know that users take only 50 milliseconds (ms) (that’s just 0.05 seconds!) to form an opinion about your website? This split-second judgment determines whether they stick around or click away. The idea is that your visitors should be able to understand what you do, what you can offer, and why they should choose you over the others on the home page alone. A hero image (which is basically just a very large attractive image header) serves not only as eye candy but also as a medium for websites to “tell a short story” with an image. In a time when people have very short attention span, you can easily cram an idea into one image instead of a 200-word blurb.

Hero Image Benefits

I can’t count the number of times friends, clients, and other people have asked me this question. According to most of them, these questions stem from what seems like the sudden popularity of the element. Here are some of the reasons why using hero images is always a good thing if done properly.

  1. It Builds Your Brand – A lot of people who are hesitant to use Hero Images believe that committing the largest and most prime real estate on your website to an image is not logical. While this may be partly true, a Hero Image can easily tell a story and build your brand just by being there. This is really effective for websites and brands that have services or products that have a great story to tell.
  2. It Gives Answers to Customer Questions – Oftentimes, websites use hero images as a means to provide an answer to a probable question. For example, some e-commerce sites use their hero images to include information such as “100% organic, Free Shipping to USA, or Made from the wool of 100% Highlander Yak. This is to address possible questions or time-sensitive information that customers might make or need.
  3. It Can Highlight Your Value Proposition – As a business, it will always be your goal to differentiate yourself from the competition. This is what we call a value proposition. It’s basically telling your customers what value your service or product brings them. Where better to put it than on your hero image. You can put it in the form of a call-to-action in your hero image.
  4. It Helps in Making an Announcement– They say that whenever you have something exciting to announce on your site, then your hero image is your best bet. Pop-ups and floating elements are no longer effective as before, so you might as well put it in a place where you are sure people will see it. Announcements posted on hero images get the most visibility and, thus, more exposure. Announcements include sales, the arrival of new products, and product giveaways.
Hero image benefits infographics

Different Types of Hero Images

Hero images exhibit diverse characteristics determined by their content, design, and purpose. Familiarizing yourself with these common types will equip you with valuable knowledge:

Product Showcase

Product showcase hero image by apple. Com

These hero images feature a product prominently. This type of hero image is often used in e-commerce or product-specific landing pages to highlight specific product features or benefits.

Lifestyle Image

Tommy hilfiger website hero screenshot

These hero images show a product or service in a real-life context. This might involve people using a product or service or a scene that represents the lifestyle or results a customer might achieve after using a product or service.


Nike's website hero screenshot

Some hero images are designed to communicate brand values or personality rather than focusing on a specific product. This might involve imagery that conveys a particular mood or idea associated with the brand.

Textual or Typography-Based

Solis. Care website hero screenshot

In these hero images, text or typography plays a significant role. They often contain a strong, clear headline or statement, with imagery playing a secondary role.

Illustrative or Graphic

Sony playstation website hero screenshot

Some hero images use illustrations or graphic designs instead of photographs. These can often be more flexible and creative than photographic images.

Video or Animated

Website hero screenshot of allen berg racing schools

Increasingly, websites are using video or animated hero images to create a dynamic, engaging user experience. These could be short video clips, animations, or even interactive elements.

Interactive or 3D

Website hero screenshot of species-in-pieces. Com

With advancements in web technology, more sites now use interactive or 3D hero images. These may include elements that respond to user interactions or offer a three-dimensional view of a product or scene.


Screenshot of be natural music's website hero

These hero images are simple and free from clutter, often featuring a lot of whitespace and a simple, strong message. This can be very effective for creating a strong, focused impact.

Each of these types of hero images can be effective in different contexts, so it’s important to choose the one that best aligns with your brand, audience, and website goals.

How to Design Effective Hero Section

Crafting an impactful hero section entails a series of strategic steps, seamlessly blending the art of graphic design, marketing prowess, and web design expertise. Here are some of the best practices you should consider for maximum impact:

  1. Understand Your Audience: Before you start the design process, it is absolutely imperative to have a deep understanding of your audience. Familiarize yourself with their preferences, needs, and motivations. This crucial insight will not only steer your design choices but also ensure the creation of a compelling image that truly resonates with them.
  1. Define Your Goal: The purpose of your hero image is to effectively showcase your product, evoke emotions, or communicate a specific message. By keeping this goal in mind throughout the design process, you ensure an engaging and impactful visual that captures the attention of your audience and achieves your desired outcomes.
  1. Make Your Visitors Feel Welcome: Now, this may sound like advice from the 80’s, but bear with me. Remember when I mentioned that the Hero Image is the first thing your site’s visitors see? It works like that funny doormat your neighbor had. When people visit their homes, they see the doormat, smile, and know the people inside have a good sense of humor. The same goes for your Hero Image. Ensure it reflects your brand’s aura. With a simple play in color and saturation, any photo can become a powerful, warm, and inviting Hero Image that says, “Come in, we’re open.”
  1. Choose the Right Image: To enhance your brand, product, or service, ensure that the image you utilize is not only of high quality but also relevant. Whether it’s a captivating photograph, an eye-catching illustration, or a visually appealing graphic, make a choice that seamlessly aligns with your overall website design. This way, you can confidently captivate and persuade your audience.
  1. Use the Right Tools: Utilize top-notch design tools like Adobe Photoshop, Canva, Figma, Sketch, or Pixlr mentioned earlier. These powerful tools provide a plethora of features to craft a breathtaking hero image.

    For a more custom-designed hero image, consider exploring image manipulation services. These services offer advanced editing options, including background removal, intricate retouching, image masking, precise color correction, and much more.
  1. Focus on Composition: A great hero image is skillfully composed, strategically placing key elements along the ‘rule of thirds’ lines. This balanced and visually captivating composition effortlessly draws the viewer’s attention to the most important areas.
  1. Typography and Text Placement: To maximize the impact of your hero image, ensure that any accompanying text is effortlessly legible against the image background. Employ techniques such as text shadows, borders, or overlays to guarantee optimal readability. Additionally, ensure that the font style and size align seamlessly with your brand’s aesthetics, thus accentuating your visual identity. With these strategic considerations in place, you can elevate your design elements to engage and captivate your audience effectively.
  1. CTA Integration: To ensure maximum impact, your hero image must include a clear and compelling call to action (CTA). A concise CTA that precisely tells users what you want them to do is crucial. For visibility, the CTA button color should contrast with the background while still aligning with the overall color scheme.
  1. Responsive Design: To ensure optimal visual appeal on all devices, it is crucial to make your hero image look fantastic across various screen sizes. This entails scaling it seamlessly to suit both large desktop screens and smaller mobile devices. Consider creating multiple versions of the image to align with different screen sizes perfectly. Rest assured that this proactive approach will guarantee an impeccable user experience.
  1. Be Creative: Many websites use a plain rectangular hero image, but this can restrict the storytelling aspect. Get creative with your hero image: tilt it, play with lines, ditch symmetry, or experiment with patterns and borders. Remember, capturing your visitor’s attention with the hero image is already half the battle won.
  1. Test and Iterate: After your hero image design, testing its performance becomes crucial. Implement A/B testing to experiment with various versions and determine which one resonates best with your audience. This approach yields valuable insights and empowers you to make informed decisions.
  1. Keep it Fresh: It is crucial to regularly update your hero image to maintain a fresh and relevant appearance on your site. This becomes even more significant when leveraging the hero image to showcase specific products or offers effectively. By doing so, you can confidently enhance the visual appeal and engagement of your website.
Hero section best practices infographic

Don’t be afraid to play around with your website design. Be bold. Be free. In case you need help with your website design, don’t hesitate to contact the experts for help.

Posted: December 3, 2015

Updated: July 21, 2023

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Brian Childers

Brian Childers is the Founder and CEO of Foxxr Digital Marketing, a St. Petersburg, FL-based agency specializing in home services marketing. An accomplished SEO expert with 15years of experience, Brian and his team has a proven track record of driving organic growth for home service businesses. Under his leadership, Foxxr's team of digital marketers crafts data-driven SEO strategies that consistently increase website visibility, generate high-quality leads, and boost revenue for clients in the competitive home services sector.