Does your website have a slider or carousel? Plenty do. That must mean they work, right?
Well, no… not according to most of the internet. A quick Google search gives you headlines like: ’homepage sliders: bad for SEO, bad for usability’, ‘why sliders make your website suck’, and ‘Don’t use automatic image sliders or carousels’. There’s even a website: http://shouldiuseacarousel.com/ which gives it to you straight, in capitals and with multiple exclamation marks.
Hang on a second. You can find millions of website templates available and overflowing with slider options. Even with so much negative sentiment out there, there must be reasons why they remain popular. Let’s explore a few:
A company homepage can be a political battleground. Particularly with larger organisations with multiple departments who all feel their message should go on the front page. Offering multiple slides gives everyone ‘a turn’ on the homepage. However, who is your website for? Your customers, or your colleagues? A better way is having a static image and changing it regularly. This way your website always looks fresh to returning visitors, and sends a message to search engines that your website is regularly updated (which is good for your rankings).
Visitors to a news website expect to have multiple stories on the homepage. In this context, moving images inject a sense of urgency. People are there to read, explore and browse – a slider adds to this.
Rotating banners work well on sites where you’re showcasing a product. Think artist websites that show their work, or property websites such as Zoopla or Rightmove. However, the visitor must already be interested in what’s on offer, and be motivated to want to click and explore.
OK, that’s three valid (sort of) reasons. But… none of those reasons really apply to the majority of B2B campaigns. Because the focus is on generating leads rather than just attracting browsers. Yes, a B2B content marketing strategy may focus on building audience. But eventually, there needs to be some form of conversion or deeper form of engagement. At that point, the slider becomes a problem.
Usability experts Neilsen Norman Group did some eye-tracking experiments that recorded where on a webpage users look. When information was placed on a promotional-looking banner, users consistently missed it – displaying what’s commonly known as ‘banner blindness’. If your slider has important information displayed with an invitation to click, expect 99% of your visitors to miss it.
When each slider has a heading, each one is usually wrapped in <h1> tags. That means search engines see multiple <h1> tags on a page, when there should only be one. This can confuse the likes of Google and Bing, and your rankings are likely to suffer as a result.
Sliders need scripts to run, which means your website takes longer to load. That’s bad for your visitors (57% will abandon a website where pages take more than 3 seconds to load). What’s more, it sends a negative signal to search engines, which can affect your SEO.
If you want people to scroll down your page, you need to give clues that there’s more underneath. Look how the BBC arranges its homepage:
Different-sized pictures make the page look ‘unfinished’, an effect magnified by the white space, which encourages visitors to scroll and see what’s missing. The main headline runs across two lines, so you have to scroll to keep reading. As you scroll, more images and text come into view:
This sort of ‘uneven’ layout acts as a powerful visual hint to users. Whereas a slider runs right across the page, so there’s no clue that there’s more content underneath. Of course, you can add arrows to show what’s on offer underneath. The problem is that many users miss them. If you’ve got important information underneath your slider, be prepared for the majority of visitors to never scroll down and see it.
Assuming you’re using landing pages as part of your campaign (you are, aren’t you?), you want your visitor to complete one action when they arrive. It might be downloading a report, signing up for an offer, or buying your product. One goal or link per landing page is the ideal attention ratio: 1:1. Adding a moving slider or any other element dilutes the attention ratio, and distracts your visitor from completing the goal.
That concludes the case ‘against’. However, things are never 100% black and white. You might, just might, have an audience that loves to interact with your slider. It’s highly unlikely, but if you want to know for sure, you can set up tracking.
The best way to do that is via Google Tag Manager. Add tags on every part of your slider. The call to action buttons, the arrows that take you to the next of previous slide, the headline, the image. Then once the page with a slider has reached at least 1,000 unique page views, see how many clicks have been recorded.
Let’s say your slider gets 10 clicks, which equals 1%. That’s the average detailed in this report. You’ll need to decide if the clickthrough percentage is proportional in relation to the slider’s size. For example, if it takes up 60% of the average homepage, you need to decide if 1% of clicks is a fair return for 60% of homepage real estate. Here’s a hint: it’s not.
So that’s the case for and against. If you just want your visitors to browse, there may, just may, be a case for using sliders or moving banner images. Otherwise, steer clear. Unless, you really really really want to test. But 99% of the time you won’t need to, for the reasons outlined above.
After reading all that, have you decided for or against a slider?