Are Image Sliders Good for Your Web Site?
Web professionals including myself are all guilty of riding the wave of slider popularity. When they were new, image sliders (also known as carousels) were seen as an interesting way to add life (movement) to an otherwise static web page.
They caught on quickly with business leaders who, as a species, get excited about “cool” things.
As with any design fad, the leading-edge web designers moved into new best-practice, while business leaders lag behind in their best practice knowledge. To this day it is common for them to require user interface professionals to do things in ways we now know to be outdated or ineffective. We can’t entirely blame them, as it is us that got them onboard with it back when it was considered best practice.
But sliders as they are commonly used are both illogical with current UX thinking, and quantifiably proven to be ineffective.
As the science of user experience improves, we are learning that it is more important to guide users with page content than with page structure (navigation). As we pour more and more effort into crafting the best content possible, the problem with sliders become self-evident.
As per best practice, we put the most important content at the top, “above the fold” as we say. This is content that is essential for the user to know where they are, what the site is offering, and why they should stay.
But how important is content that slides away?
Even if it is important…
Because it slides away.
Thinking along the same lines, how important is content that slides in? It’s not. Why? Because it wasn’t there to start with: other content was. Also, it too will slide away.
What content in a slider really says to the user is: this is kind-of important content that we don’t care if you see or not. And frankly users never care about kind-of important stuff.
How do we know this? User behavior research bears this out every time someone looks into it. At best people assume slide 1 is important. Response to subsequent slides is effectively nil.
So is there any use for sliders? There is: They still make sense in a gallery type setting. They also still have application in rotating backgrounds (where they aren’t acting as content per se). In fact, small sliders within content areas can be a valuable tool for observing users trying to locate certain parts of content, but that’s a topic for another article.
What should we be using instead of sliders in the “hero” area of home pages and landing pages? This is for the very most important hook. It’s for the title, supporting line, and image(s) that will keep users on your web page for the rest of your pitch. It’s definitely not content you want sliding away!