It’s time you learn the dirty little secret of website design. Those rotating sliders that everyone loves because they allow you to put multiple items at the top of your homepage? They’re not as great as you’ve been led to believe. Read on to learn more.
What the heck is a “rotating carousel slider” anyway?
Rotating carousel sliders are a trend in website design that has become popular in the last ten years or so. They consist of a rotating “carousel” of slides, usually at the top of a website’s homepage, allowing the site owner to feature multiple pieces of content that slide from one to the next.
They will often look like one of the following:
If YOUR website has a rotating carousel slider, you’re certainly not alone. After all, revolving content can come in handy at all sorts of times:
- When multiple decision-making parties are involved and have vastly different opinions of what should go “above the fold” on the homepage.
- When you offer multiple programs and don’t want any one to appear more important than the others (by being shown above others on the page).
- When you have multiple new features that you want to be brought to the spotlight all at once.
Website Design’s Dirty Little Secret
So what’s this secret? Rotating carousel sliders, for all of their fame and glory, simply DO NOT WORK.
But don’t take my word for it. Let’s take a look at the results of a few studies examining user behavior when website carousels are involved.
Study #1: If at first they don’t click … they won’t click at all.
In a study by Notre Dame University, researchers found that, amazingly, only 1% of users clicked on a carousel slide, and among that small group, a whopping 84% clicked ONLY on the first slide. That puts the percentage of users who clicked on any of the remaining slides basically negligible.
So what’s the takeaway?
If you’re among those who put a carousel on your website because your decision-makers couldn’t agree on what should go at the top of your homepage, consider this: In reality, only the very first slide in the carousel will be seen anyway, so your so-called solution really isn’t one. You’d be better off featuring one item above the fold at a time, and rotating them in day by day or week by week to offer comparable visibility.
Study #2: Sliders mean less clicking, not more.
In a study conducted by Conversionista in Sweden, they conducted an A/B test for users, example A featuring a rotating carousel slider, and example B featuring only the first slide in a static (un-moving) view. The results were staggering. While only 2% of users viewing the rotating carousel clicked on the first (or any) slide, a whopping 40% of users viewing the static (un-moving) view clicked on the content there.
So what’s the takeaway?
Often clients want to use a carousel because they feel “more is more.” They have multiple pieces of content they want their users to see. Unfortunately, by putting all their most valuable content in a slider, they’re in essence shooting themselves in the foot because almost no users will pause to look at this content, let alone click on it. They would be better off featuring those pieces of content one at a time, so users can take their time and absorb each independently as they scroll down the page.
Study #3: We are the 1% … or maybe even the .16%
And just in case you’re thinking – well, 1% or 2%, if you have thousands of visitors, that can equate to a lot of clicks! – this study is for you. The VP of Digital Marketing at MWI conducted a study in which he observed users for three clients’ websites featuring carousels. All three had low numbers of clicks in the slider, ranging from .65% all the way down to, that’s right, .16%. Abysmal.
So what’s the takeaway?
Although a lot of clients still ask for rotating carousel sliders, the reality is that for the most part users scroll right past them, and almost never, ever click on them. They are simply a bad choice in terms of design, usability, and SEO.
While I confess that I *may* have written this blog so I can refer future clients requesting a carousel slider to it in the future, it’s also more than that: I wanted to help get the word out about sliders because the reality is, entrepreneurs don’t know any better. And why should you? It’s your job to work with heart and do an awesome job for your clients – not read up on website user trends. As web designers, it’s our job to stay on top of industry data so we can advise you as to what works in website design and what simply does not.
I’m a firm believer that in all client projects, and in design in general, there is always a solution to every problem. Sometimes it has to involve a lot of creativity or thinking outside the box. But one thing is for sure … it doesn’t have to involve carousel sliders 😉
Looking for more?
Here are some more quick reads from Janelle (that’s me) at Ellanyze on website usability!