Home Page Sliders: Heaven Or Hell For The UX?
Home Page sliders or carousels… Can you remember any other popular element of the website design that has raised so much controversy? Discussion about carousel sliders sparks around the web from time to time. Carousels still have many backers as much as multiple haters. Some time ago one of the main reasons against carousels was that they slower the website. But since Flash is not in favor anymore, and much lighter and more flexible jQuery elements are available, website speed might not be a serious issue for this case.
A few years ago Google introduced Carousels into its Local Search results. Today you will hardly get carousels for local SERP. It seems that even Google discards carousels and considers them to be not the best thing that can be featured on a search results page. Then why people still overreact to Home page slider inclusion or its absence on a website?
Best Ways of Using Carousel Sliders
Sliders are meant to show the best website content. Let’s briefly outline what types of content sliders we may come across on most websites:
- Recent Posts slider – an overview on the latest blog posts;
- Image slider – highly usable on photography websites to display the best photographer’s works;
- Items slider – rotates the most popular/most wanted products/hot deals.
Mostly carousels are used for websites with tons of content as one of the ways of presenting the best items. Thus, online stores try to present the latest collections or the best deals to their clients. And, well, in many cases that is an option. Home page slider gives an opportunity to showcase multiple items on one page and sometimes push the products that are less popular or hard to find among others. Sokruta decor studio (http://sokruta.com.ua/en) chooses slider to showcase their best designs in an original manner – slides move like two parts of a puzzle and get together into one piece of a project photo.
Home page sliders seems to be a cool design idea for restaurant business website. This type of home page sliders allows displaying the kind of info that may be really useful for visitors. E.g. showing the dish of the day choice like on 1bite2go website (http://www.1bite2go.com/en/).
Another type of websites where carousels may be useful and appropriate is news resources and platforms like ABC News (http://abcnews.go.com/). ScoopIt (http://blog.scoop.it/) team includes content sliders for their best and latest blog posts into the sidebar. It allows the company to introduce more content to audience and, at the same time, not to overwhelm it with flashing images in front of the eyes.
Actually, when we see all this it becomes obvious that we speak about the website owner’s satisfaction of carousels. And what about a user experience with carousel sliders? In terms of the UX it’s all not it’s cracked up to be.
Are Home Page Sliders Good for UX?
Most surveys show results that make against carousel sliders. They appear almost useless for visitors as well as for companies and online stores. They fairly convert into purchases or don’t convert at all. Possibly that’s because most people (84%) (http://erikrunyon.com/2013/01/carousel-stats/) tend to click on a first slide in a query and almost ignore the following ones.
Today we can see that mobile devices impact the users’ behaviour and experience greatly. Scroll becomes a dominating pattern for website navigation (http://www.motocms.com/blog/web-design/7-ux-trends-of-2015/). Since carousels are usually placed on top of the page, carousels will be hardly noticed on websites that rely on heavy scrolling.
Jacob Nielsen’s study (http://www.nngroup.com/articles/auto-forwarding/) describes user’s attitude to carousels like the one to advertisements and banners. Due to fancy style and constant movement people often see those sliders like commercial banners and mostly ignore them. So despite the value of content you may implement into those sliders, people will mostly turn on a “banner-blind” mode and ignore it. The Yoast team goes even deeper (https://yoast.com/opinion-on-sliders/) and simple claims sliders suck because they negatively impact SEO. They move your vital content below the fold and bring website conversions down to the ground.
How to Fix It?
Despite such negative reaction to sliders, there’s still a chance you can use Home page carousels if you use them wisely. First, narrow the number of items you include in carousels. Jacob Nielsen recommends (http://www.nngroup.com/articles/designing-effective-carousels/) using not more than five images within one sider to avoid messy look and help users easily find the slider content if they wish to come back to it later.
One of the main reasons people blame carousel sliders is that they offer little control to the uses on what they see on the screen. That’s why web designers today more and more focus on controllable sliders like in the Sound City Project website (http://soundcityproject.com/). Controls allow users to flip through pages with a help of additional buttons, arrows etc.
Another way to introduce a Home Page slider without losing in the UX is a background carousels. Images that are rotating on the back barely look like an advertisement so they can’t be ignored. At the same time, they are not those fancy tricks that users may wish to turn off. If we speak about photographers, background sliders allow users freely browsing the website but draw partial attention to vibrant photography works. Menu may be arranged in a place that doesn’t distracts users from watching photos but stays prominent as well.
Possibly, the only wise way of using Home Page sliders is storytelling. They may include a story of a brand or of some great event of the company’s history. They may also be used as an instrument that helps users perform certain action on the website, like registering or signing-up for some goods. However, there also can appear hidden pitfalls. Firstly, it’s automatic rotation again. Users with low literacy won’t be able or won’t wish to read the text on every slide, especially if the slider rotates too fast for them like on Mmofra Foundation (http://mmofraghana.org/) Home Page.
Thus, we may say that adding or removing a Home Page sliders – is up to you. The best way to decide whether you need one or not – is a thorough testing with careful tracking of analytics. There might be cases when carousel slider is really helpful for your visitors and really converts. But if not – may be you should consider something more useful?