That Gigantic Home Page Image (aka the hero image)

It’s well past calling it a trend at this point, the humungous image on the home page known as the hero image that literally takes 2/3rds of the vertical space above the first “fold”, but I will just go on record as saying I have a love/hate relationship to it in general.   It can be extremely useful.  But it isn’t always a hero.  I feel the same way with full screen width video if it is just decorative.

Sometimes it basically makes the site worthless.
That size of an image and any incorporated text can be a terrible investment in the space for content that your visitor will first see when they arrive at your site.  What often makes it even worse is when the web designer has decided to cascade at least 5 or 6 mouse downs of content on that home page.  If you are going to have that kind of content below the fold, you better use the space above the fold to draw visitors in.  A gigantic image, or half of an even more gigantic image, isn’t going to cut it if not with compelling message and action option.
And that image better load very quickly.  If it is done well, it will.  Often, not so much.
I know a lot of the web design buying marketplace thinks it is attractive.  It can be.  But your goal once someone gets to your site is to get the information that the visitor needs, and that you want them to have, as efficiently and effectively as possible, preferably with some kind of action.  Usually that does mean attractive, but the goal should be driving the design, not the other way around.
A hero image without a targeted message and an action page link can stop that person in his or her tracks.  I’ve seen enough of them out there to know how useless a hero image can be.  They basically turn the web site into a big billboard.
The hero image is like everything else – use it well, or don’t use it at all.  Let your site’s goals dictate whether you should or not.