The other day I was in a meeting with one of my clients and their web designer, discussing the content for a new site they are having built. As often happens in these situations, the designer was recommending that we include an image slider or image carousel on the home page.
Image sliders and carousels are a way of displaying a series of different images one after the other - usually at the top of a website’s home page. Each image appears for a few seconds and is then replaced by the next one. Often the images have text overlaid on them.
Although they’re often taken as being the same thing, there’s actually a difference between a carousel and a slider.
What is an image carousel?
A merry-go-round minus the merry! A carousel rotates the images on an axis where the image is always facing you. It uses depth of field and distance to create a 3D effect.
And a slider?
A slider is a series of images which slide on and off the screen without any rotating 3D effect. The images usually slide horizontally (left to right or right to left), but can also slide vertically.
But, as I explained to my client and her web designer, the thing that both carousels and sliders have in common is they’re a great way to ruin your website.
What’s so bad about image carousels and sliders?
Carousels and sliders have now become a fashionable feature on most websites as businesses have bought into the fad that this is an effective way to promote their services and products. The truth is, carousel images and messages are a bad idea; you do not need carousel images or sliding messages on your website to increase sales or enquiries.
In fact, it’s been shown that carousel images and messages are detrimental to websites and that only 1% of people actually click on a slider. And when they do, it is almost always the first slide that gets the click (in which case, why have a carousel at all?).
So if image carousels and sliders are so bad and ineffective, why do web designers and businesses continue to use them?
Probably because they are pretty, and they make your website look flashy and cool while making your web designer look clever!
However, what most businesses don’t consider is that you only have eight seconds to prove to your website visitor that your business’s products or services will add value to their lives. You will almost certainly waste some or all of those eight seconds with an image carousel or a message slider on your homepage.
So, if as often happens to me, you find yourself needing to convince a web designer to ditch the carousel idea, here are five simple arguments against using carousels and slider.
Your customers are most probably searching for your products and services through a handheld device, whether it is a mobile phone or a tablet.
Your carousel or slider will not look as good on a phone or tablet as it will on a laptop or PC. Most of the time, carousels are not optimised for mobile usage and therefore your visitors are left struggling to navigate through your website as a result of your carousel’s navigation arrows having shrunk to a tiny size.
This is one of the key ingredients in delivering an enjoyable user experience. A study done by Akami in 2009 found that half of web users expect a site to load in two seconds or less (and expectations are certainly not going to have lessened in the last ten years).
As image carousels and message sliders involve several large images all loading at the same time, they will cause your website to struggle and naturally slow down. This will steer your visitors away from your website and, ultimately, encourage them to go to your competitors who have a faster and friendlier website.
Website load times have become so important that, in July 2018, Google changed their algorithm to use loading speed as a factor in mobile search result ranking.
Did you know that your visitors are more likely to ignore your carousel than they are to click on it? This is because carousels are often mistaken for advertisements or promotions and can therefore trigger something called “Banner blindness”. This is where, over time, your visitors learn to subconsciously tune out any content that resembles an ad.
People want to be in control of what they purchase and what they browse on your website. A carousel removes this control from your visitors by either moving too quickly or by having small navigation icons. In turn, this will affect your visitors' overall experience of your website; and so no control can end up equaling no conversion.
Too many messages from you could equal no messages from your visitors! When carousels are moving too quickly, they can confuse your visitors. Even if the carousel catches their eye and they begin reading your first message, “Why not consider getting…”
Before they can finish they are moved onto the next message. This will happen at least two or three times, and just once is enough to annoy your visitor.
Hopefully I've convinced you to think again about image carousels but, in case not, here's a quick Q&A to end with!
So, will an image carousel or message slider make your website more attractive?
No, it will look flashy but will ultimately be frustrating for your visitors. Don’t buy into the fad! Pretty does not equal practical.
Does your website need an image carousel or message slider to generate sales?
No! If anything, your website having these features will decrease your sales and steer your visitors towards your competition.
What should you use instead?
It’s far better to select one image to use as your “hero image” at the top of your home page. Make sure it’s something eye-catching and that it’s relevant to your products and services. And then your value proposition text should be overlaid on the image.
Do you agree with my fairly strong views on why image sliders and carousels are a bad idea? Or have you got some stats that show they are actually a good thing? Either way, it would be great to hear your views so please leave a comment in the box below.