Rotating Carousels on Websites Don’t Work

Rotating carousels, also known as sliders, are everywhere – just about every theme has one.  Every client wants one.  On one site I worked on the client wanted two sliders on nearly every page!  Just because something is popular, doesn’t make it efficient.  Check out this research on carousels:

Users Don’t Click on Rotating Carousels

Erik Runyon examined 5 Notre Dame sites with carousels on the home page.  The home pages received 3,755,297 visits total.  Only 1.07% of visitors clicked on the carousels, and of those clicks, an average of 89% clicked on the first item only.

Users Don’t Look at Rotating Carousels

Siemens Rotating CarouselIn a usability study by the Nielson/Normal Group users were given a question to answer “Does Siemens have any special deals on washing machines?” A large advertisement for a cash back offer was the first item in a series of slides and the offer was in 98 point font.  The rotating carousel was at the top of the page and took up about 1/2 of the space above the fold – in other words it was right in front of the user’s eyes – and yet they couldn’t see it because the carousel auto-played.  From the article:

Auto-forwarding causes many usability problems:

  • Moving UI elements usually reduce accessibility, particularly for users with motor skill issues who have difficulty clicking something before it’s taken away.

  • Low-literacy users often don’t have enough time to read the information before it’s removed.

  • International users also read more slowly if your site is not in their native language, and thus won’t be able to understand a panel if it’s displayed only briefly.

  • The probability that users will spot the item they want is drastically reduced when only one thing is displayed at any given time; in the Siemens example, the discount deal is visible only 20% of the time.

  • It’s just plain annoying for users to lose control of the user interface when things move around of their own accord.

Carousels Suffer From Banner Blindness

In addition to the usability problems, the fancy formatting and large size in rotating carousels can cause banner blindness.

Banner blindness is a phenomenon in web usability where visitors to a website consciously or subconsciously ignore banner-like information, which can also be called ad blindness or banner noise. ~ Wikipedia

In a research paper by Magnus Pagendarm and Heike Schaumburg, the authors hypothesized that banners are ignored because:

Users may also have learned that advertising banners often do deliver what they promise. Consequently, they consciously ignore them (Nielsen 1997, Drèze and Hussherr 1999). Another reason, as several studies suggest, is that many users simply do not notice banners on Web sites.

Carousels Cause SEO Problems

Our themes don’t have sliders… Because sliders suck“, rotating carousels and sliders are problematic because:

So Why Have a Rotating Carousel?

In my experience, and from my research it appears for two reasons:

  1. The website owner has not adequately defined the goal of the website and/or the page.
  2. There are too many stakeholders who want their message on the page (i.e. Marketing, Sales, R&D)

Neither reason is a very good one, considering no one will actually read the messages you put in your carousel or banner.  So why have one?

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