The Real Scoop on Website Sliders • New Tricks
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hate_those_slidersAbout half the websites we do include a slider, and they are one of the hardest things about a website to get right. There are times and places where a slider works really well, like for a gallery. But doing a slider with multiple marketing messages are very tricky to do right. One issue is that planning to have a slider on a site opens a can of worms with clients. They either have no idea what they want, or they get fixated on a bad idea without realizing the ramifications of what they are asking for.

I have been conflicted about this slider issue so I did some research on the topic to help sort out what is what.

Lets talk statistics here. In one study of click through rates for 4 websites, the first slot slide received the most attention averaging 48-62% of the total clicks, with subsequent slides splitting the rest fairly evenly. The site with the most evenly distributed percentages based on position was the one with the fewest number of slides (3).

Click through rates on clide carousels

 

I have found that it is really hard to keep the client at three slides. Once they get a slider they go slider crazy and want to throw everything in there. Now I have some data that says if we are going to do this lets hold it to three.

In an article called Death to the Hero Slider, Pete Shuster discusses the performance improvement on his website when he took the Slider off his home page. He suggests that a nice image with great typography and the most compelling message can be much more effective than a bunch of mediocre slides that slow down the site.

More ammunition against using sliders, especially auto-rotating sliders, comes in from the Neilson Group, who specialize in useability studies. Neilson calls these sliders, conversion killers. They can annoy visitors causing them to ignore your content completely.

Brad Front makes the point that carousels introduce a level of complexity to an interface and can burden the user with having to learn its controls, conventions, and behaviors. But he adds if you have to use them, make sure that all of the slides are consistent rather than using the slider as a catch all compartment.

My favorite post is Brian Krogsgard’s, Sliders ( almost always) Suck.  He mentioned a couple of other horrible slider problems to add to this research.

Brian said that clients have heard that you should put everything above the fold, so they think a slider is a good way to do that and want you to put everything in the slider. However, having everything above the fold is not necessary any more because people do scroll. They really do. So you do not have to try to get everything in up top.

Brian also reminded me of some of the weird slide transition options that, thankfully, I don’t see very often- for example the tumbling chopped up block rotation effect. Who would ever think that was a good idea? Brian suggests, and I agree, that using simple fades or slides is much preferable to any weird thing. Use simple fades as transitions from one slide to the next. Never use one of those weird chopped up tumbling boxes, slide change options.

If you want someone to take an action, have one call to action rather than different calls to action on each slide.

You have to use your words. Don’t ever have only a slider or an image on your homepage. People and Google need words to make sense of your site.

Sliders are best used when looking at the slides is a goal in itself. So having a portfolio or gallery is a good use of a slider. Sliders can also be used to get across three consistent messages but have the call to action be the same thing thus you are using it more like a gallery.

1. They slow the site down.

2. They are hard to make responsive or to be effective on small screens.

3. The majority of the click throughs happen on the first slide and the other slides go way down from there.

4. They end up being a catch-all place to cover all bases and then the real message gets watered down.

5. There is something called banner blindness where people don’t look at things that look like ads.

6. Clients get mired down in sliders and ask for weird things that are not in their best interest.

For you site developers out there, Chris Lima did a comparison test of the performance and ease of use of six sliders. There was a big difference in load time for these sliders. Soliloquy and SliderPro were the fastest and Revolution Slider was the slowest at 4.95 seconds to load. Yikes! That is a real problem.

After getting all of this data I called one of my clients and told her what I had found out in my research. I also told her that only one of the 24 versions of the slides that we had been working on was working for me. I told her the one I really liked was the first one we did. I hated to tell her that we had wasted all of that time, but I was really relieved when she said she felt the same way. We were struggling to make something work when we had perfection from the start. Telling the truth in these situations is hard but when it is true it is just true.

Lose the sliders, unless you have a really good reason to have one.

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Showing 6 comments
  • Diana Simon
    Reply

    A discussion about the future of site design at WordCamp 2011, Sara Cannon (a designer I respect) indicated that sliders would become 'dated.' She also favors vertical scrolling designs. My experience is that sliders rotate too fast and I'm not able to 'read' the message.
    Simon says, "Keep it Simple, Stupid."

  • Tom Tortorici
    Reply

    Really good post, Judi. The web keeps evolving, and if you look at the most creative new websites (for example, check out bestproductsites.com), you rarely see any sliders. Really, a site should have one core marketing message or value statement, and that should be the first headline that visitors see. Sliders in most cases just dilute that effort. Plus in many themes, the responsive 'phone' version of the site simply deletes the sliders. Whoa, there go your most important messages, bye bye. There is a hybrid solution, which is to have just one headline, but have images set up in sliders next to it, to give the home page a little sense of 'movement.'
    My recent post Ten tiny sentences that keep buyers from walking away.

    • Judi Knight
      Reply

      Yes indeed. And you, Tom, are a master in coming up with that home page messaging. We have another client for you. Talk soon.

  • Karen Sheeran
    Reply

    Thanks so much for this post! I recently did a website using Revolution and Soliloquy on the same site and I didn’t realize there was such a big difference in load time. Thanks for the info! I do like home page sliders for businesses that visual images are what they are all about such as photographers, painters, etc. They immediately capture the viewers attention and maybe entice them to read on? I don’t know maybe I’m old fashioned?

    • Judi Knight
      Reply

      Karen, There are good uses for Sliders can be nice for imagery if it doesn’t slow the site down. However, research shows that people do not sit around waiting to look at your slides. So, if you have important info or calls to action on the slides after the first one, you are way less likely for anyone to see them or take action.

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