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Because You Thought Rotating Image Sliders Were a Good Thing…

 

I have a little secret for you. Putting those automatic rotating image sliders on websites is a tragic mistake.

Awful. Wrong. And, just… so… terribly tragic.

Really, they’re that bad.

You might be surprised at how strongly I feel about a bunch of code that sits on a website making graphics shift on the screen. But, if you had read as many A/B test results showing what conversion killers sliders can be or done as many website audits as I have with those things taking up space – you might sing a different tune.

 

I know, I know. Loads of people like them

 

If you’ve got rotating sliders on your site and more than kind of like them, you’re not alone. Bloggers to big name retailers use them on their websites because…

  • They’re cool. Rotating sliders are dynamic. They seem shiny and sexy, especially when you read they’re part of a “responsive design.”
  • You get more bang for your buck. In the same amount of space, you can cram in lots of pictures and messages.
  • Everyone else thinks it’s a good idea. It’s easy to become a lemming when you see the same types of designs and layouts over and over. Conventional wisdom tells you that so many people couldn’t be so wrong.

I’m here to tell you that they can be. And, I’m not some sort of rotating slider hating lone wolf out there. Google rotating sliders and you’ll get a nice little smorgasbord of blog posts on this topic.

 

Would you put a velvet painting of Elvis on the top of your home page?

 

I hope you answered “no.” Unless, of course you actually sell velvet paintings of Elvis. In that case, I apologize for the comparison. 

A rotating slider at the top of your website home page is a comparably bad choice – even if it’s aesthetically pleasing.

Here’s just a few of the reasons why.

 

#1: Cognitive overload

 

Our brains can only process so much information at one time. If you’ve ever tried to read text on an image that quickly disappeared only to be replaced by another, you’ve probably experienced cognitive overload.

The psychologist George Miller found that people can only hold between 5 and 9 chunks of information in their short term memories at any one time. This was back in 1956 before the Internet. Recent studies have found this to be closer to 2 to 3.

Images, graphics, and fonts that blink or move make it more difficult for people to grasp what you’re trying to convey – which has a tendency to create frustration.

 

#2: A waste of valuable real estate

 

The area near the top of your home page (where most sliders live) is the equivalent of Park Place on the Monopoly board. This is the first thing people see which means your value proposition needs to be front and center.

I’ve written about the importance of headlines born out of your value proposition more than once. Even if your slider images contain benefit driven headlines, they’ll get lost in the shuffle. It’s called banner blindness… and it’s just one more way people can shut out what you’re trying to say.

The Nielsen Norman Group conducted a study using eye tracking to show how people completely ignored anything that looked like an ad or promotional banner. This includes sliders.

 

#3: Cringe worthy click rates

 

Users don’t click on slider images. One test done on Notre Dame’s website found that only 1% of visitors clicked on a call to action in a slider. Of these clicks, around 84% were done on the first image. The others only got around 4%.

So, even if you do get people to click, the vast majority will be on one slide.

 

The list goes on… but you get the idea

 

Rotating sliders do other nasty things on websites like slowing load time and giving marketers the illusion that they are effectively getting their messages across to different audience segments.

They’re bad news from a usability and conversion standpoint – no matter how you slice it. This means if you have one on your website it’s time to consider ditching it.

Think about doing these things instead:

  • Place a rock solid headline and sub-headline along with a relevant image to immediately key your visitors into where they’ve landed and what’s in it for them
  • Focus on directing people to a primary call to action
  • Keep the clickable options limited to avoid choice paralysis

 

And if you just can’t let your sliders go…

 

Turn off the automatic rotation. Even with something so minor – like browsing through a website – people want to have control. It’s Psych 101. Allow your visitors to move the carousel forward instead of dictating when they can look at the slides.

It may not help your conversions but at least it will not annoy your visitors quite as much.

If you’re interested, you can read more about the why from other conversion and usability experts like Peep Laja and the folks at Marketing Land, and VWO