You've seen them...the sliding images at the top of home pages that automatically move from one to the next. They seem to be everywhere. We even had one on OUR website until we learned the ugly truth. Those sliders or "carousels" are worse than useless and can actually be harmful to your conversion rates.
You might be asking "If sliders are so bad, why do so many sites use them"? Besides the initial "cool" factor, my opinion is this - back in the day, when monitor screen resolution was so much lower, you just had less "real estate" to work with. Everyone wanted to put as much information "above the scroll" as possible. The slider was a solution to getting more selling messages at the top of your home page. I believe that many sites are still thinking along these lines when choosing to include a slider. It seems that tons of pre-designed themes and templates out there have them. And let's face it...lots of sites are using these themes as their starting points for design.
A marketer might tell you that different site visitors are looking for different things. And different messages and images will resonate with them. You can use the slider to speak to multiple buyer personas.
So, what's the problem with that? Lots of things actually. Here's just a few reasons to ditch the sliders.
1. People ignore them.
Especially on shopping sites. They look like banner advertisements and we're conditioned to ignore anything that might look like an ad. If you think about how you look at a home page, most people generally need to orient themselves a bit when arriving on a site. They are trying to determine if they've landed in the right place, and if they think they have, they start looking around to see where to go next. You scan....you don't read. You get your bearings, and then you move on. It's really unlikely that you would sit and stare at the screen while those images move past.
2. Usability is awful.
What about different messages and images for different buyer personas? When someone lands on your home page you have seconds to engage them. If the initial slider isn't in line with what they are looking for, you've just lost an opportunity. But, what if it does connect? By the time the user orients themselves to your site, that slider has moved on to the next. Have you ever played "tag" with a slider, trying to either get back to something or to see what is next? If you're lucky, you'll find little dots or arrows that you can navigate with. Sometime you'll be frustrated enough to abandon ship and move on to the next site.
A study done by the Nielson Norman Group asked users if Siemens had any special deals on washing machines. Although the font size in the banner promoting the sale was 98-point, users failed to notice the sale because the panel rotated instead of staying on the page. The slider is really a "hit or miss" kind of thing since if you "hit" for a moment, the message is gone....so it's a miss anyway.
3. So many messages, but what's the story?
Rather than try to "stuff" all the important things you have to say into the home page slider, it's best to put your most important message at the top of the page. Why hope that your prospect sees what you want them to see? Studies show that most users never interact with anything other than the first banner anyway. As a matter of fact, in one study by Notre Dame, they found that only 1% of visitors ever click on a rotating banner. And of those visitors, 84% click the first banner only.
Our current strategy....just settle on the most important message and put it front and center.
4. Load time and search engine optimization.
It just takes longer to load all of the content in a slider. Google's Matt Cutts announced recently that Google is likely to start taking into account the load time for mobile sites when ranking. Back in 2010 Google said that site speed is a ranking factor for all sites. In addition, many of the sliders and carousels that we've come across are utilizing multiple H1 tags in these sliders, which in itself is an SEO "no-no."
Redesigning our home page to remove the slider cut the load time in HALF!
Any way you look at it, the slider is just not great for optimizing your site for search engine rankings.
5. You talk too much!
The "slider phenomenon" got me thinking about how easy it is to follow the crowd without much thought as to whether it’s a good idea or not. I can hear my mom now..."If your friends jumped off the bridge..." Truth is that sliders do look "cool" and it is tempting to want to stuff all those good images and messages in there. But one thing I've learned in every sales training seminar I've been to is that it's better to listen than to talk. We tend to want to get ALL the reasons we're the best choice out there and sliders are the technical equivalent of talking too much. So for us, we've taken a step back and given a critical look at our home page and ditched the slider for all these reasons above. Our one most important message is an introduction to get a conversation started so that we can let our site visitors tell us what they want and need so we can start listening.