When planning a website homepage, a slider or carousel seems to be a perfect solution, but there are many reasons not to use them.
They allow you to put multiple pieces of content in the same prominent space, advancing automatically to a new image and wording after a few seconds.
On business websites especially there’s a temptation to put as much on the homepage as possible, and a slider seemingly helps solve that problem.
But as is often the case, something that looks good to the website owner is often annoying to the website user – or just ignored.
Sliders often look stunning, but they can make your site difficult to use, harm how your site appears in search results and ultimately cost you business. Here are five reasons why.
Five reasons why you shouldn’t use a slider on your website
1. Sliders are bad for usability
On the face of it they are attractive to look at, and a marketer’s dream as the moving slideshow delivers endless promotions to the website visitor.
People add them to websites without even thinking about it, or perhaps because there ‘isn’t enough going on’ on their homepage.
But this completely fails to take into account how people actually use websites:
- They often won’t be on the page long enough to see the slide move – website visitors are on a mission, and are only on your homepage to find a link to what they want
- Many users will mistake a slider image for an advertisement and will ignore it, a phenomenon known as ‘banner blindness’
- Users see a website completely differently from the website’s owner or designer
Worse than this, if the user is on the page long enough to see the slider move, it’s likely to be a distraction, not a help, as they will most likely be reading something else.
Moving things on web pages is also a bad idea, as the human eye picks up on it and finds it distracting.
Nothing on a web page should happen or move without being initiated by the website user, and a slider takes control away from the user.
2. It’s very difficult to get a slider right (and they are often implemented without thought)
Most sliders on websites today are done badly and with no thought for the user. Typical problems include:
- The slide moves before the text can be read – a very common problem
- The slider doesn’t work properly on mobile devices
- The slider has too many slides – 2 or three slides should be a maximum, but it’s common to see 10 or more, a complete waste of time and effort because no-one will see them
- Trying to cram too much information into slides
- The slides aren’t clickable and don’t link to more information
If done badly, a slider becomes no more than a piece of wasted space on a website homepage – yet sliders often occupy the most important part of a homepage, which brings us to…
3. Sliders usually occupy prime homepage real estate
Sliders sit in the top part of the page, and this section is hugely important for search, and of course, for the people using your site – it’s the first thing they see.
Therefore that part of your homepage should prioritise the primary aim of your website, whether it’s leads, conversions or direct sales.
Tests have shown many users don’t even read what’s on the slider and scroll straight past it, often before the slider image has even loaded.
Google won’t be so kind, and the large slider image, as well as the extra time the page takes to load because the slider is there, will go against the site in search rankings.
4. Sliders harm conversion rates
Especially on sites that sell something, test after test has shown that sliders (or carousels) are far less effective than static content and a call to action. And for good measure, here’s another test that underlines the point.
This is why we are seeing sliders employed less and less on the leading websites where they once ruled.
The problem is their use is still very much alive in small business websites.
5. Sliders are annoying
Annoying is normally a subjective term but not, apparently in the case of sliders. Yet more tests have shown that users find them annoying, and if you want them to buy from you, don’t annoy them.
Why are we still using sliders?
Probably a few reasons here too:
- Because it’s the easy way out in design
- Clients ask for them
- Ooh, it moves.
Brian Krogsgard: Sliders Suck
A sixth, bonus reason: They slow down your website
Website loading speed is becoming increasingly important, especially for mobile users, and a slider adds a large amount of code to a page, all of which takes time to load.
Often this code blocks anything else from downloading before it’s finished, which can leave mobile users looking at a big white space for several seconds.
This can make the difference between someone staying on your site and leaving.
Sliders: An Apology
We admit it. At Moghill we have built many websites using sliders in the past and we’re sorry.
It’s an easy trap to fall into. Clients like them because they get more pictures on the page, but we were never entirely comfortable using them.
We kept slides to a minimum, and kept the slides uncluttered with short, clear messages that could be read by an average reader before the first slide faded into the next one. This was usually about 10 seconds and therefore pointless!
But it was becoming hard to ignore the growing number of articles posted across the web, among them this all out attack on sliders by Thijs de Valk at Yoast.
We had fallen into the trap because everyone was doing it, and that for every site we were automatically adding a slider without thinking about it. So we stopped doing it.
Often these days clients specifically ask for them and we have to explain why they are not a good idea in most cases.
So now we’re doing our bit to atone for our previous crimes against website usability by sharing the lesson we learned.
Our advice is at least to think before using a slider, and if you still decide to, be sure to test that it’s useful and it works.
Some links about sliders
There is no shortage of research and articles on sliders and carousels. Here’s a selection from some respected people:
- NN Group: Auto-Forwarding Carousels and Accordions Annoy Users and Reduce Visibility
- Yoast: Our themes don’t have sliders… because sliders suck
- Should I use a Carousel?
- Search Engine Land: Homepage Sliders: Bad For SEO, Bad For Usability
- ManageWP: Alternatives to Using a Slider for Better Home Page Conversions
- So your client wants a WordPress slider? Before you cringe, here’s what you need to know WPMU Dev blog
Photo by Beantin webbkommunikation