Background images - what's the policy?

+5 votes


I've read the help page, but when is it appropriate to use a background image on a profile? And how relevant should it be?

It's taken me almost a year to stumble across some profiles which use them. It seems like they're something you either like or don't like... and I can't help but be reminded of Myspace! 

The profile creator has chosen an image of Tower Bridge in London, but the subject of the profile lived in Hull, a port city nearly 200 miles north in eastern England, and would almost certainly never have visited London. I know that lots of people conflate England/the UK with London (grrrrrr!) but the image doesn't seem terribly relevant to the profile.

Perhaps I should just ignore it, but obviously Wikitree is all about collaboration and working together to make the best profiles we can smiley 

I don't want to upset someone over a harmless image, but what would others suggest? I guess it would be ideal to replace it with an image of the place where the person was born, but I'm having trouble finding something suitable and appropriately-licensed at the moment.


asked in Policy and Style by Katie Fuller G2G1 (1.1k points)
retagged by Isabelle Rassinot
Good question... added a couple of tags.

4 Answers

+7 votes
Best answer

All I can say is that mostly when I come across profiles with background images when I'm sourcing or data doctoring, the background image is so busy that it makes it hard to look at the page in display mode, which usually means that I move on to work on something else.

I'm not totally opposed to background images; I have used them on a few occasions, taking care not to disturb the eyes of people at my own level of over-sensitivity. I guess I wouldn't mind removing them if they hurt the eyes of someone else.

This, of course, does not address your case of an inappropriately chosen background image.

I haven't checked the help pages to see if they address the correctness of background images - although from G2G discussions I think there is an agreement that incorrectly applied coats of arms should be removed, as also pictures violating copyright should be removed.

Also, I am sure there is nothing that says there MUST be a background image.

As for protocol, I guess the usual recommendations of politely contacting the profile manager are valid. If the manager is long-gone, well, then they cannot be contacted. It's the usual scheme of allowing time for communication, in accordance with the situation.

answered by Eva Ekeblad G2G6 Pilot (261k points)
selected by Katie Fuller
Thanks for your thoughts Eva. Design is a very subjective thing - what one person considers beautiful someone else might think hideous! (and there are potential issues with usability too - see my comment below)

I do wonder whether background images really fit with the idea that profiles don't belong to anyone in particular - the images do give the impression of "personalisation" especially if the relevance to the person isn't clear.

I'll have a think about approaching the profile manager and will try to find the source of the image, in case it's infringing copyright.

"I do wonder whether background images really fit with the idea that profiles don't belong to anyone in particular - the images do give the impression of "personalisation" especially if the relevance to the person isn't clear." - Good point, Katie.

In my view, since a lot of people don't like backgrounds (or at least many backgrounds), they should be limited to profiles of close relatives (eg grandparents or closer).

I agree with what Eva has stated however again not a policy but I personally would keep background pictures for close relatives. The further you go out the more there possibility for more ancestors to be interested in the profile and sometimes the choosing of a background can be difficult to find.
+3 votes
I think also making things simpler graphically helps those with older computers and also probably helps with compatibility issues. Not to mention is easier to police. Unlike family photos, a background image might taken from a stock photo site and not be in public domain, etc.
answered by Dina Grozev G2G6 Mach 2 (26.6k points)
Yes, I think usability is really important for the reasons that you mention. I'm sure a lot of people do have out of date computers or – dare I say it – may be older and possibly with eyesight not as good as it was!

(I did a reverse Google image search to find where the London Bridge photo came from – on a comment it says "Yahoo search images photos of England." so I think copyright infringement may be an issue here)

I've also seen some profiles where the references have been formatted so they display in a smaller font, which I think should be discouraged as I know some people find them hard to read anyway. I know it's well-intentioned but if we think that Wikitree's design or usability could be improved, we ought to be flagging it up as an issue to be looked at (is there somewhere to suggest these things?) rather than trying to "fix" it ourselves.
Oh, although I am only in my 40's, my eyesight is terrible! I even forgot about that aspect.
+2 votes
Please see Eva's answer, above. Good information.

My feeling is that in many cases the image is visual clutter, and I'm not sure how it appears on a mobile device. So, I've been using subtle solid colors or not using a background at all when I add new profiles. Sometimes I try one on "for size" and see what it looks like. If the image tiles in a strange way (sometimes the pixels are skewed or the image looks blurry), then I remove it immediately.
answered by Natalie Trott G2G6 Pilot (392k points)
Backgrounds don’t show up at all on mobile
Could you link to an example of one of the pages you've used a background on? I am just curious how it looks.

My eyesight is poor, so in my own person genealogical records I color code a lot, I find that helpful not only for reference but memorization. There are ways a color background might be helpful.

Two different colors. I was trying to play off the tones in the photos.
Thanks! It does look attractive and not distracting.
I like to use dark colours, as I feel that then the biography box etc 'pops' out at you.  Take a look at the background for my own profile; it is also the background I use for my direct-line ancestors in the Haywood Name Study:
+4 votes

Like most  others I think less is more. I only us them on a fewprofiles.  Muted on my direct close family like a pale flowery one for my mom. Or to highlight special people like a recent profile  for an ancestor who died in Battle of Montieth. I took an image from Unsplash that offers free images, faded and shrunk it.  Rules for background images are same as all images when it comes to copyright 

answered by Joelle Colville-Hanson G2G6 Mach 2 (28.5k points)

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