Captions are seductive. Captions are the most important text on a web page. They are always read first and are the strongest influencer to read the body text. An image without a caption has wasted an opportunity to communicate. Captions are also the key to interpreting the photograph’s metaphor so the viewer isn’t left out in the cold.
Captions carry more meaning than the actual pictures. Image implications need clarification. The metaphor (image) is frequently indiscernible, unknown, or imperfectly shown and is explained in the caption. Without the caption, there is no image understanding. The power of the image is magnified. If photos becomes too poetic, it becomes abstract. The caption gives meaning and understanding. Caption readers may read nothing but the caption and the headline to decide whether to read the entire page content. The best captions are self-contained advertisements for the web page in themselves.
More people read captions under images than read the text body copy. Captioned material (with an image) is retained in memory even better than a headline or an illustration alone. Don’t be humorous when the picture is not. Captions are crisp, not curt. Conversational language works best. Write as if telling a friend a story. They should contain all articles and conjunctions. Always check spelling. Do not use phrases as “looks on,” “is shown,” and “pictured above.” The caption should not repeat information used in other display type. Captions are frequently set in a different color or type style to help differentiate this special text from the body copy.
- Images are reader stoppers.
- Captions create an entry point onto the page.
- Three or four lines length maximum.
- No small italic typeface.
- Caption text should be bold and legible.
- Not written over the photo or in reverse type. This ruins the type and photo simultaneously.
- Use captions for graphics, lists, etc. in sidebars.