Some call it a carousel, some call it a slider…whatever you call it, as a website designer I can almost guarantee that clients will ask for one. Along with that guarantee, I can tell you they are ineffective and should rotate their way out of web design. But unlike many ungrounded things detested by designers, there’s real research to back it up.
The weird thing about the research is it’s been around for a long time, especially when you’re talking about web time. I’ll put some links to the articles I liked most throughout and at the end of this article and you’ll see some are older than my gray-faced golden retriever. But people won’t listen and for some reason, carousels are still everywhere. Even some big companies that moved away from sliders have been sucked back in, just with the carousels lower on the homepage (I’m talking about you gap.com). I can just imagine some marketing director and web designer finally compromised after battling it out for months: “Fine, we’ll add a carousel, but it has to be partway down the page. Will you leave me alone now?!”
Would You Use the Prime Real Estate on Your Site for 1% Click-thrus?
That’s right. 1%. That stat’s from an older article, but even if it’s tripled, which there’s no reason to assume it would, there’s no way it’s worth it for that level of interaction. What’s effectively happening is you’re choosing to push your important content down the page with images that people don’t even see because of a thing called “banner blindness.” Yes, there’s a name. There’s eye-tracking research. It’s a real thing and it’s affecting the usability of your website if you’re relying on carousels.
There are some pretty widely agreed upon reasons for banner blindness such as the fact that they divide your users’ attention. It’s like a billboard on the side of a rural highway versus a billboard in the heart of Tokyo. Add in the fact that carousels slide in and out every four or five seconds and that the human eye is wired to react to sudden movement. This may sound good, but the response is not to encourage a click, rather it’s merely to distract. So not only will the carousel be ineffective but it will pull attention from anything else on your homepage.
What’s the Alternative?
There’s a lot more research and there are a handful more reasons why carousels are just plain bad UX. But if you’re like me, you’re convinced and wondering, “What’s the alternative?” In my mind, you’ve got some really good options. The hard part is going to be convincing the folks addicted to carousels to climb on board with this new direction. Maybe this will help your case: https://shouldiuseacarousel.com/
I’ve been designing mobile-first for a long time. Admittedly, I rarely show clients the mobile mock first because it’s harder to grasp, but it’s how I start planning a site design because it requires some difficult decisions when it comes to the hierarchy of information presented on the homepage. People expect to scroll on mobile, so the “keep it above the fold” request that used to be so prevalent is no longer a factor. Think about the best apps you use. Why can’t your website be that slick and easy to navigate on your phone and on your laptop?
Put Your User In Control
If the reason you can’t quit the carousel is because you can’t decide what info is most important for your user, then let them tell you. Develop a design that presents all options at once and then check out the analytics. Or even better, focus on your unique selling proposition as your hero image and let your user dig deeper because they’re so compelled by what makes you different. The fact of the matter is, if you try to force your user to do what you want them to, it’s going to backfire anyhow, so put them in control.
If you’re not convinced, I understand. I’ve been there. I’ve been sucked into designing many sites with carousels. But the data are too compelling. Go down the Google wormhole I’m slowly emerging from after researching this article and I think you’ll come around. In the meantime, did I already share this with you? https://shouldiuseacarousel.com/ It’s too good…
Brandt Hoekenga is the Founder and Creative Director for TIV Branding
TIV Branding is a boutique branding firm in Sonoma County, California. We specialize in building brands by using traditional, social, and digital channels in unison. If you would like to discuss a project or find out more about how we do what we do, please email us at info@TIVbranding.com.