Content sliders have been a solution for many businesses, displaying a variety of information on their homepage. However, research is showing these sliders aren’t as effective as they seem.
Many turn to content sliders to help display important or timely messages without having to overwhelm the homepage’s design. Even design professionals have turned to content sliders to keep a site’s design simple and to balance the client’s needs. We have solutions to fix many of these problems, but first, let’s take a look at what the research shows when it comes to these tools.
What Does the Data Show?
Over the past two years, many prominent websites began testing and tracking clickthroughs and conversions on their content sliders. Nielsen Norman Group, a user experience research and consulting firm, tested users’ ability to notice key messages on content sliders and found that users rarely noticed at all.
Many skipped the rotating content slider all together due to a phenomenon known as banner blindness, in which users perceive an animated moving object as an advertisement and ignore it. The web developer for Notre Dame University’s website likewise reported that they saw a drop of over 80% in users that clicked the first feature on a content sliders compared to the subsequent features.
Common Content Slider Mistakes
Below are some of the common content slider mistakes and solutions for underlying content or site design issues.
- We Have Too Many Important Messages
Most businesses have a hard time distilling their company’s information down to only one message or call to action. They can compromise with content sliders to appease different internal audiences. This approach only dilutes all of the messages instead of retaining importance.
Fix: Try taking all the messages and ranking them by priority. Then, create sections on your homepage giving more visual attention to top priority content while setting aside secondary and tertiary areas of the design for additional messaging. Create a content calendar for your website where you can change out those sections if priorities change. If your business has seasonal sales or weekly promotions, change them when applicable so that users see what is the most current and timely event when they first arrive on your site.
- We Want Some Movement on the Homepage
Many businesses want users to perceive their site as engaging and interactive. They feel content sliders provide this by adding movement to the homepage. This actually makes it less noticeable to users. This approach equates movement with engagement, but research shows that people don’t have enough time to read the message before the slider advances. Conversely, if the movement is too slow, they will likely exit the page before ever seeing the second feature.
Fix: Consider using a video background that plays behind a main message to give some element of movement to the page. This approach requires the video to be resized appropriately, so all devices will be able to load it as quickly as possible. Also, make sure that you provide a single frame as a fallback background image. If the video doesn’t load, there will still be an image that users will see. These videos shouldn’t provide any messaging or sales information directly but simply give a sense of place. Providing a background image that slides can still be a good solution for movement, but don’t change or transition messages and call to action buttons.
- We Want to Highlight New Items or Promotions
Businesses use content sliders to change out standard features with a more timely promotion, news release or upcoming event while leaving the previous features to subsequent positions. This approach, again, dilutes your site’s messaging by making other content not as important and therefore not seen.
Fix: Consider using a site popup message if something needs immediate attention. This will force users to notice it before proceeding with the rest of your site. This is extremely useful for increasing email signups on a homepage or providing a discount that can be redeemed immediately. Beware that users can get very frustrated if they see this message often, so make sure to use a tool that only displays it once and not every time they load the site. Many CMS platforms have plugins designed for this functionality. If you’re using WordPress, visit the plugin directory to download a popup plugin. If you have more detailed needs, you can use a tool like Qualtrics Site Intercept.
- Refresh the Homepage Design
A common use of content sliders is to refresh the design of the homepage. Many see alternating content sliders as a way to easily update the design of a site. While keeping a website updated is a best practice, adding content that may potentially be ignored is not. By only adding a banner and a message, it may serve to update the homepage, but the previous content is actually lost.
Fix: Instead of using a new content feature to update the design, try replacing with a hero image or additional promotional area on a schedule throughout the year. Develop a deck of evergreen content that may be used to keep the design of the site relevant. This can be developed and added to an editorial content calendar to ensure that homepage updates don’t get overlooked. Add new promo buttons or other visual elements to identify them as a “new” item, so regular users will have a visual cue that something has been updated.
When Should I Use a Content Slider?
Photo Galleries and Portfolios: Not all content sliders are problematic. They’re extremely useful for photo galleries and site portfolios. This type of information forces the user to view many slides, and the content is generally visual. It is still recommended to not auto-forward the carousel or slider so that users are in control of the rate in which they view the content.
Content Sliders with Thumbnails or Text Thumbnails: This approach avoids the trap of the user needing to advance through all the slides to see additional content and gives them a heads up view of the hidden content. BQ Works Slider Pro has a nice function where users can see text thumbnails and an indicator of the related image.