October 24, 2014 | Sarah Danks
Are sliders on the home page of a website really all that bad?
Answer: “It depends.”
You’ve more than likely heard industry Big Fish — such as Search Engine Land, Chris Goward, Unbounce and ConversionXL — telling you not to use home page sliders (also known as carousels or image rotators) on your website.
At any cost.
But blindly following that advice — without knowing how having/not having sliders affects traffic on your own website — is somewhat akin to converting to Scientology because a bunch of famous people you admire think it’s the bee’s knees.
Okay, who’m I kidding — no one’s going to switch their religion to Scientology just because Tom Cruise seems like a happy guy. That being said, if well-known people in the search marketing industry are shouting, “do away with home page carousels!” it doesn’t mean you need to re-design your website.
Because whatever anyone else says, if it works for you — keep on keepin’ on!
But, what about all the research that proves sliders are ineffective?
The debate of whether or not home page carousels “work” isn’t a new one. Lots of people have done tons of research about the click-through rate and efficacy of these pesky rotating images.
- Research on click-through rate of carousel images (from January 2013, but still relevant): Carousel Interaction Stats
- From Search Engine Land (June 2013), specifically about B2B websites: Home Page Sliders: Bad For SEO, Bad For Usability
- From UX Movement (April 2014): Why Users Aren’t Clicking Your Home Page Carousel
- And, ConversionXL has a very strong position: Don’t Use Automatic Image Sliders or Carousels, Ignore the Fad
And then, of course, there’s this: shouldiuseacarousel.com. Love that one.
Thing is, regardless of all those condemning image sliders to the stone ages, they’re still in use.
If all these experts are saying home page carousels are bad…why are they still around?
To clarify, I mean why are website sliders still around, not the experts.
So, according to research,
“only 1% of visitors click home page slider images“
People are all vexed that sliders don’t get clicks and, the big one: “they’re conversion killers.”
But let’s stop and think about the PURPOSE of a slider/carousel/image rotator. Is it maximizing real estate (i.e., jamming as much information you can onto the home page)? Is it navigation? Is it conversion?
I’m sure this differs for every single site using this feature in its design.
And, like Creative Bloq says,
“Content sliders, aka carousels, are simple to set up, totally customizable to the look and feel of your site, and allow you to showcase creative content in a relatively small footprint.”
But, but, Conversion XL says:
“It (image slider) takes away attention from everything else – the stuff that actually matters.”
Well, what if your website’s home page slider IS SHOWING THE STUFF THAT ACTUALLY MATTERS? What if the story about the services you’re selling is best told front-and-center on your home page?
“Psh,” you scoff. “There’s no such thing.” Au contraire, mon ami. Au contraire.
Here I offer you several examples of websites where home page sliders are doing just fine.
Examples of effective informational home page sliders.
Okay. I have no clue about these websites’ analytics. I’m just saying, in these industries, I believe their websites are not only great; I think having home page sliders makes perfect sense.
So, I currently own a Canon camera (the 7D Mark II, to be exact). But just because I only use their dSLR doesn’t mean I shouldn’t learn — quickly — about their other cameras and products. Right from the Canon site home page:
I bank with TCF. I have since, oh gosh, I don’t know, 2003? Sometime after I moved to Minneapolis. Anyway, I realize they’re a bank, so they offer more than just what I use them for (checking + savings accounts).
But every time I head to TCF’s home page to log in, I see offers they’re running, products (free online financial literacy education, anyone?) and promotions. I like it. I even learned that they offer loans that way.
Oh, and I signed up for a new savings account after seeing some promotion they had. Win? I think so.
(Update: TCF has since done away with their home page carousel, but have moved to a similar look across the top of their secondary nav pages.)
And what about Converse? I haven’t worn these in YEARS (in fact, it’s been so long I’m wondering if I didn’t rock the knock-offs), but when I ran across their site recently I loved looking at the different iterations, PLUS I found out you can totes design your OWN.
Speaking of footwear, I stand at work (well, I stand around at more places than work, but anyway, I stand. A LOT). While I’ve worn Danksos for more years than I care to admit, I know several people who swear by Clarks.
I wandered over to the Clarks site to look for good “standing all day” shoes and what do you know, I could see a bunch of their styles right from their home page. Did the slowly-rotating images anger me? Not at all. I think it’s a fantastic way to showcase multiple products and maximize real estate.
(PS: I’ve noted several pairs I think look great but I need to try them on in an actual store to be sure of comfort before buying.)
Recently I talked to a family friend who said she uses Hopkins Health & Wellness center for her chiropractic needs. I use a different clinic but upon hearing about this other place I decided to check out their website to learn about them.
And lo and behold, I didn’t even really need to click around much to get a feel for who they are — I learned a lot right from their home page sliders. Imagine that.
Am I going to become a client of theirs? No…but not because of their website’s carousel. (It’s ’cause I’m a diehard fan of Orthology.)
I not only like Intuit’s clean design; I like how — not knowing much about them — I can quickly learn about some of their product offerings right from their home page sliders. Did I myself convert? No, but upon showing this site to the person who does our payroll, she said, “They can do payments online?”
As a photographer, I enjoy following professional photographers on social media and recently ran across the amazing work of Marina Cano on Facebook. Of course I started learning all I could about her and ended up on MarinaCano.com.
Aaaaaaaand then stood transfixed for ALL TEN IMAGES on her carousel as they slid through their rotation. How can you not be mesmerized by this woman’s talent? And if you weren’t convinced that she’s a phenomenal artist by the first image on the slider,
a) you’re blind and
b) I’ll bet you were by the time you finished watching that collection of images.
I was seriously bummed she doesn’t have at least twenty more images in that home page slider of hers, because that’s how good her work is. Am I going to buy one of her prints? No…
…but I AM going to buy her latest book (or at least put it on my Christmas list!).
A little closer to home: about 5 years ago I got married to my best friend. (Cue “aaaaw” here.)
When I was looking for wedding photographers, I pretty much based my entire search on photographers’ websites. Even years ago they had rotating images on their home pages, and if those first few glimpses of photography piqued my curiosity, I delved farther into the site.
One of the photographers whose work I became enamored with was Erin Johnson in Minneapolis. Unfortunately we didn’t get married in this country so I didn’t use her, but I WOULD have, based on her mad skills.
You know, skills that I learned about right from her home page slider:
You’re just promoting companies you like who happen to use home page carousels.
While it might seem that list is comprised entirely of companies I already know of and like and use, it’s not. The point is: there is a time and place for home page sliders. Are home page sliders the devil? Of course not.
Should you just take the experts’ word for it and re-design your website because you currently use rotating images on your home page? NO! But, to quote conversion optimization thought leader Chris Goward,
“You should test that.”
End of discussion. If home page sliders work for your business model and your visitors are converting, leave it. Because, you know, in the famous words of Bert Lance,
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”
I’d be interested to see what OTHERS think about my opinion…
…and, where have you run across home page sliders/carousels that work? I’d love to hear all about it.