January 22, 2015 Websites

Carousels: top tips and what to avoid

Carousels on homepages, also known as sliders, have been up for discussion from time to time. Carousels are a popular way to alternate top stories on websites, but it should not be considered a one-size-fits-all solution.

The reasons for requesting a carousel can vary from, “It looks good” to “We need to promote this offer” or “The HR and IR departments also want a position on the homepage”. Although these reasons have good intentions, you’ll notice none follow a clear content strategy – which is a problem.

Research and measure

Studies have been published recently showing carousels perform poorly in delivering content, damage SEO scores and are generally bad for user experience. Although this can be true in some cases, it depends entirely on the situation and execution.

As always, it’s necessary to do your own research regarding the functionality and statistics of how your carousel is performing. Our advice is to review the click through rates of your carousel. This will prove whether or not the carousel needs to be replaced or updated.

Carousel do’s and don’ts

We have compiled the top arguments why some experts avoid carousels, as well as our tips to overcome the challenges that can be associated with carousels.

Kalle Hansson is Comprend’s leading expert on UX

Carousels hide content

Some studies indicate that as little as 1% of visitors click the carousel area. Out of those users, 60-90% click the first slide. Click rates on slide two and three typically drop to 15% per slide and to nearly zero on the fourth slide. Thus, adding important content to these slides can hide it from visitors.

Comprend tip: if you decide to use a carousel, limit carousels to three slides. This eliminates the issues associated with low click rates on subsequent slides, while also helping prioritise content. Other good alternatives include simply highlighting one key message or designing an overview to display content. These options also help eliminate banner blindness that can be associated with carousels.

Page speed is decreased

Typically, the more elements a page contains, the slower the loading speed will be – and slower loading can mean a poorer user experience. Google may also penalise slow websites in its search rankings.

Comprend tip: If page speed is a concern, consider using a hero image. A static hero image allows users to focus on one image rather than dividing their attention among several, rotating elements.

Designing and coding carousels can be expensive

A carousel can take time to design and code and therefore be expensive – especially if it is to be functional on multiple devices. Considering the time it takes to develop, coupled with a low click through rate, there might be a better solution in terms of ROI.

Comprend tip: Discuss the strategy and requirements with the design team. Often, designers will have solutions to decrease the time needed to code a carousel.

Carousels can be hard to maintain

Writing the perfect copy is difficult, finding the right images of the right quality is time consuming, and it’s often challenging to compress image file sizes without losing quality.

Comprend tip: Consider having default generic images for future slides. This allows for consistent and cohesive branding and decreases the time necessary in choosing suitable images. When writing content, think about what the visitors came to do and how you can help best help them.

Let’s talk alternatives

  • Discuss the content strategy and know your visitors. Content tailored to user personas is best and cultivates repeat visitors.
  • What is the main purpose of the website? Think about what the visitors came to do and how you can help solve their problem.
  • Prioritise. Focus on one message (remember the first slide receives 80% of all carousel clicks).
  • If you have several goals of the same importance, make an overview where users can easily navigate where they want to go.
  • Scrolling is a good option. Prioritise your content and show less important items further down.

Carousels can present multiple content pieces in prime website real estate, but it’s worth considering all solutions. Carousels are not right for every site and its important that the purpose and strategy is clear before jumping on the carousel bandwagon.

If you have any questions about how to improve the look and performance of your website, please get in touch with us. 

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