CaptionIf you’ve ever been to a museum you might notice that the use of captions is a widely used practice. In fact the use of captions is so ubiquitous that were you to walk into a museum and not see any captions you might feel a bit lost.

Do captions make the art? Of course not. Although they can certainly add a great deal to the overall experience. And if you don’t want to read a caption, guess what – you are still allowed to enjoy your time at the museum.

And the same logic holds true for the images you use on your website as well.

Granted there are plenty of instances where using a caption makes no sense and delivers marginal user value (I’ll leave the talk of search engine value for others to weigh in on), but for the situations where it is called for, using a caption to go along with an image great.

Imagine someone is walking through your gallery…. We’re talking about your best stuff here – not the stuff you offloaded in bulk last week to the shady outfit operating out of a van with no windows! And now imagine a new person walks into your gallery. They are really into what they are seeing on the wall – a particular piece is moving them, so much so that they want to learn a bit more and then they see the caption. Do you think they are going to take a minute to learn more about this great piece? Likely yes.

Now switch gears and imagine a reader on your website. You’ve taken the time to write this really good post. You researched it. You wrote it. Your proofed it. And you found this really great image that makes the post. And here it is.


Very nice. Kittens seems to make everything better. Of course they do! But let’s just say this post is really everything you think it is. Imagine now that instead of the above photo, we used this one:

"How many times do I have to tell you to put the dishes away?"

“How many times do I have to tell you to put the dishes away?”

Okay – don’t shoot the messenger – the kitten really likes an empty dishwasher. And assuming the amazing article you wrote had anything to do with emptying the dishwasher, or with problem solving or whatever else you might be writing about, clearly the caption adds value to the reading.

Not only that, but if the image and caption are delivered at the right time, the caption has the potentially to dramatically influence the entire orientation of the reader. So let’s imagine that same wonderful article we wrote – but we decided that the picture is great and we wanted to leverage our caption even more.

In a museum if they really want to leverage the caption they might make it interactive. They might have a series of buttons you push that light up different elements of the exhibit. Or they might do something more simple like have a spotlight dedicated to the caption.

In our world (on your website) we might do something like this.

"I told you aardvark is a compound word and I'm not going to say it again!"

“I told you aardvark is a compound word and I’m not going to say it again!”

or perhaps even more forceful – how about doing it like this:

Kitty Caption Red

So, just like museums use captions to add value to a visitor experience, so too can you with your website photos.

Image Credits:

Gas Mask: Chris Devers on Flickr
Kitties: MetalVendetta on Flickr

Code Credit:

Fancy Caption Code: WordPress Tips