Sliders (also known as carousels) are a rather contentious item. There are a number of reasons that sliders are perceived to be an asset to a web design – the main one being that they provide the ability to use high-visibility page real estate (especially on the home page) to feature more content in a smaller area than with similarly designed static content. Because of this they remain a commonly requested component in site design. However it is widely regarded by industry professionals that sliders are rarely effective and pose a number of problems for both usability and accessibility.
Are they effective?
At the end of the day, the most important factor is results. Are sliders successful in the purpose they’re used for? If we measure the success of a slider based on how well they engage users and expose featured content, the resounding answer is: no.
In a study done on ND.edu, only 1% of visitors clicked on a feature, and of those the vast majority clicked the very first slide. This shows that sliders are not only incredibly poor at engaging users, but that most of the content within the slider receives a very small fraction of the users attention.
Sliders often feature poor usability decisions, such as subtle or confusing controls, automatically advancing slides and poor support for mobile and touch devices. This lack of consideration when it comes to usability make it more difficult for a user to interact with the contents of a slider and creates a barrier to finding any content in the slider that may interest them. In addition, sliders are often designed in a way that resembles advertisements which can trigger banner blindness in users, causing them to subconsciously avoid looking at the slider altogether.
Lack of Focus
Sliders are often tempting because they theoretically allow several pieces of key information to share prime real estate at the top of the page, but in doing so guarantees that all of the slider’s contents will be less visible overall, than if presented on its own. The only time this should be acceptable is if none of the slider’s contents are particularly crucial, which in turn defeats the purpose of placing it in a prominent spot on the page and should prompt you to question the layout of your site.
If there are doubts as to the single best piece of content to feature in this prime real estate, a much better solution is to perform A/B testing on different static versions of a page and gather hard data on which is the most effective, rather than muddy the site’s focus and reduce the effectiveness of your content with a slider.
Given the available evidence, it seems like an obvious choice to avoid using sliders whenever possible and there are many alternatives available. At Pace Creative we work hard to make sure that every website we build displays key messages in the most effective and engaging way, and our recommendation is almost always that this does not involve sliders.
Daniel – Developer