Using Data to Guide Photo Content

Using Data to Guide Photo Content

The Challenge

A standing feature, focusing on delivering the top photos of the day was underperforming. There were high expectations for this item, and we needed a strategy to increase user engagement. 


As a content strategist for photography, on the Microsoft News App, I sourced images that would help build the brand identity of the app as quality, highly regarded news site. I proactively looked for ways I could use data as a key tool to understand how our readers consumed imagery.

My Role

• Conceived and set up a research project to track user response across several variables.
• Updated the feature each day, and tracked success metrics.
• Developed a set of guidelines for editors to use when choosing images.


I used data to learn our audience, and what types of images they found most engaging. Visuals are everywhere, but many digital products suffer because the imagery doesn’t fit with designed goals. With a flood of pictures available, it is important to develop a comprehensive editing process. 

Using Chartbeat we tracked the following data:

Feature engagement compared with other content on the site

The strategy for the site is to place most engaging content in key prominent locations on the page.  I tracked how the “Image of the Day” feature was trending compared to other content.  If it was gaining traction, it was grounds for placing it in a more prominent location.  Since many pieces of content compete for the most prominent spaces on the site, it is key that editors can use data to help drive decision on placement strategy.

Length of user engagement

When users spent time with the feature, it was indicative of new users, or those who had not clicked through the archive gallery. I collected qualitative data on the type of photos that engaged new users.

Qualitative aspects of the images

Data was collected on the aesthetic qualities of the images, as well as the type of subject matter, e.g., hard news, lighthearted, sports, offbeat, etc.

User engagement on the site, and comparison to historical traffic

User engagement on the feature was tracked when the item was updated and published on the site. We used this to determine if new content was out performing previous posts. When content was under performing editors, using established guidelines from data assessed whether image or location of image should be updated. 


• I was able to establish a set of qualitative criteria, including aesthetics and subject matter which helped us create guidelines for the types of images that would resonate with users.

• I was  able to determine when the feature would benefit from being placed in a higher priority position on the page. This was critical because there are numerous content features that compete for 1 spot, and it’s important to have most relevant and engaging content in that position.

• After establishing the guidelines we were able to increase traffic significantly, with the feature becoming one of the most popular items on the site on certain days.

• The feature was able to out perform the historical engagement when the guidelines were followed.