Carousels: Charming or Chaotic?
Carousels are large display feature on websites which contain and alternate between content, often called “slides”. Each slide might be imagery, or maybe there’s a call to action. The slides may move in some direction, or fade between slides. Whatever they contain, they can be popular among website owners.
Big images are engaging, something to consider when reading why more sales conversions happen on tablets than phones, and movement attracts our eyes, so it’s no surprise your client wants them on their own website. Your client isn’t wrong to want features on their site which they hope would create more conversions. But are carousels the best thing for them?
No. Let me explain.
Consider the Cost
For all their visual glory and “wow” factor, carousels come at certain opportunity costs.
According to Google, your users are probably only seeing the first slide. Users start scrolling as soon as the site loads to get a sense of the content. This means they don’t wait for something they probably won’t see. You can read Google’s own marketing report for yourself.
Carousels have heavier download sizes and longer load times. The carousel has to load content for each slide, imagery, videos, or complex animations. Each slide’s content has to be loaded, whether the user will see them or not.
They also require extra controls to communicate their functions to users, unless you want to take control away from the user, which creates distrust. Oh, and these extra controls often are poorly implemented on phones, creating a terrible experience.
Development time isn’t an issue as there’s many freely-available carousel code packages. However we’re also relying on unknown providers and there’s no guarantee of their code quality. Something that’s free to us now could cost us later. In fact, one popular WordPress slider actually allowed malware onto websites!
They look cool. I want it.
I understand. These technical arguments aren’t making the point so let me try a different angle. May I appeal to your business sense?
Information overload is a common phenomenon and carousels can cause banner blindness. There are uncountable (at least by a person) websites and apps demanding our attention. With so much competition for our eyes, it’s understandable you want your website to catch the user’s attention. But as carousels will kill conversions, they should be omitted.
Yeast.com, a noted SEO expert, reports that only 1% of web users interact with carousels and then only the first part slide in the carousel. One half to 2 percent return might be good to junk mailers who use snail mail, but that’s not a scenario we want to emulate. Is such a low return worth it to be associated with junk mailers?
How do you feel about losing as much as 20% of possible users? Carousels can be accessibility hurdles. According the US Federal Government, 1 in 5 people have some sort of challenge to using the web, you’re actively obstructing some of your potential customers.
On smart phones, carousels cause the most grief. They can cause touch confusion to the operating system. This means that carousels cause frustration to the user.
Multiple online stores such as X and X have found that it’s better to have a targeted or seasonal banner than a carousel. It might be tempting to implement a carousel while your client is gathering data, but it’s better to use proven business strategies at first.
Brainstorm a value proposition banner or hero feature. An immediate, quickly-loaded statement of value creates an instant expectation. Value proposition banners are better than carousels and are easier all-around to implement.
Why not present a video of your best product or offering? A new website for a new company or organization will do well to introduce themselves or their offering in a stable, open, edge-to-edge piece of content such as a video. Videos convert better than a lot of alternatives.
Resources to Consider
Okay, I get it. Your client has their mind made up. Maybe even you have your mind made up. In this case, I have compiled some potential solutions for you. I can’t account for or even know about all the potential scenarios in the world. So, let me help you adapt. But first I’ll start with alternatives to carousels.
- Show the user your top-performing product or service. If you already have a winner among your offerings, promote it to the top, front, and center of your website.
- Say something about any current sales or promotions. This hsow your organization to be active, current, and vibrant.
- Use a hero layout to be proud of your organization’s value proposition. Do you fast turn-arounds? Say it!
- Feature a short video of your product or offering. Remember to let the user activate the video and give them controls to play or pause it.
Carousels to Consider
I am presenting these carousels as a reluctant approach if a carousel must be present. I have used them myself but I don’t want to suggest that they are the only options.
I don’t think a website should have a carousel. They seemed cool when they first slid onto the scene over ten years ago. But, I understand that sometimes personal preference will be victorious over reason.