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The cure for the common image slider carousel

Tired of seeing the same old website image slideshow? Beyond being yesterday's technology, not considering your homepage and what a looping promotion area can do to harm your website is not often talked about. I know you want to fit everything into one area, but it might do more harm than good. There is another way.

We're all guilty of it. I've used a fancy slideshow on more than one occasion. I still am today. But at what point do you start to ask why, and what it really means to simply accept a standard practice? Does it become a trend and everyone follows suit? Or is it just because it looks pretty cool, so why not? Hopefully never "just because".

Answers can be found in the data, just sitting there waiting to tell you something. How effective is your image slider and what is it doing for you?

The next time you're itching to throw in an image slider, think twice.

Having it all is not working for you. And you might not even know it.

Bad Carousel Slider examples

You *might* be able to get away with 3-4 "slides". 8-10 promos all at once is overwhelming. There is no way anyone is going through your slideshow with great anticipation of what's coming next. Give your web visitor the benefit of the doubt and the fact they only will spend X amount of seconds on your website.

bad-slideshow-walmartWalmart Canada loses points for 1) Making it automatic 2) Not giving the user any control

Besides being an overwhelmingly distracting homepage, Walmart Canada is likely a byproduct of design by committee. And the slideshow is not working for anyone. If I miss something I have to sit and wait until it cycles through again.

bad-bluefly-slideshowToo many slides, too much going on. Each slide is like being transported to a different world and getting lost every time

Focus, focus, focus. Send your user to your most important areas from the beginning.

Not all is equal, and so not all should be treated equally. There are different types of information, so grouping everything into one area is just convenient and consistent, essentially everything gets lost in the noise.

What's most important?

Good Carousel Slider examples

keithsAlexander Keiths does a great job at integrating slideshows in a simple and clever way. Notice how they keep only 3-4 slides per area square-user-controlSquare does a good job of letting the user control the slide show and they focus on a couple of messages

Good photography, design and campaign artwork doesn't hurt either. These examples show that you can still get away with it, though how effective the slideshows are overall is still out.

Time to hit the drawing board. Time to rethink your homepage.

What comes first? Do you want to hide everything? What's the hierarchy of your messages?

Stats to back it up

Let me preface this by saying this discovery is not anything new, however unless you're really geeking out you won't be in the know on this stuff.

nd-feature-click-throughHave a look at this website study article: Carousel Interaction Stats

What does it say? To be expected, most visitors interact with your first message the most while the other slides fall by the way side. Stacking up your promotions and messages is not really doing anything for you.

Remember my blog post on user experience? According to this study by the Nielsen Norman Group the phenomenon "banner blindness" happens where users ignore messages in carousels. In this case, a rare sighting of the accordion version.

It's like when you're bombarded by advertisements in a city, they blend in and you tend to ignore them.

Alternative solutions

alternative-mint-1024x865Mint uses a standard layout format breaking things down, everything up front - nothing hidden one-message-bsOne promotion up front, that's it here one-message-nikeNike does a good job of sticking to their upcoming events and focusing on one campaign at a time

What have you got to hide? Let's go back to straight up design & layout.

One way of keeping your homepage fresh is having the latest most relevant promotion up front with other consistent staples as supporting characters.

Keep your website timely without becoming a promotion hoarder. Time to let go and rethink your web strategy. You don't need to hold onto everything you've ever promoted. As Paul reminded us previously, every campaign has a shelf life.

one-messageWe don't toot our own horn often, our current homepage is a good example of one message (random cycled messages on page load)

It's probably time to change it up.

There is nothing more frustrating than things moving and jumping around while you're trying to read it.

Recommended Options:

  • One main message. Yes it's possible - focus!
  • Key points in an organized layout displayed based on level of importance
  • Give the user more control, disable auto magic slideshows
  • If you have to use a slideshow, simplify or limit the amount you have

Change will come from the designers and developers paving the way for a better user experience. And the special clients willing to take the jump. It's time to give back control to the website user.

Before you make a big decision like how to direct your user, consider your user and the experience first and do it right. Measure, adjust, rinse and repeat.

When are slideshows appropriate?

You might want to use a slideshow for a gallery of photographs or a presentation perhaps. Maybe a step by step. In the right circumstance it makes a lot of sense.

It's not something to stay up at night about (unless it's affecting sales). But updates to your website can produce measurable improvements.

The next time you reach for your slideshow, ask what it's doing for you and if it could be better. If you have to do it, limit it to 3 or 4 main messages at the most.

Ask if you need to use it at all.

Is that all?

Don't just take my word for it. This is not just me venting. It's a well-known point of contention in the industry. Check out this article which expands in more detail on the subject if you're interested.

Especially when it comes to e-commerce and finding information, considerations like this become extremely important. Conversion, metrics - it sounds like a bit of a science and it is. How you structure things will determine flow from one page to the next - assuming you aren't frustrating your visitor from the beginning and they haven't already left your website.

Be open to something new, you might just be surprised how well it works for you... and your visitors.

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Jack Shepherd
Written By

Jack Shepherd

Co-founder, Partner and Design Director at Jackson Wynne @jacksheps