Lisa Lam

Former UX / UI Designer

Posted in web

In the world of User-Interface Design, trends come and go.

The field of user-interface design is fast paced and elements that were popular just three months ago can be deemed out-dated by the time you notice five websites using it. But there has been an element that has stuck around FOREVER and is still constantly being requested by clients:  carousels / sliders. Carousels and sliders are the big animated banners at the top of a website – one banner slides in, and after a few seconds, rotates to another banner. They’re big and flashy and clients want carousels to showcase their most important product (or point) at the head of the Home page. If you’ve used the internet in the last five years, it’s likely that you’ve come across a website that used a carousel. As popular as they are though, user-interface designers are arguing for carousel sliders to disappear because they’re ineffective.

Designers and developers have been arguing against the carousel for the last several years. Erik Runyon, Director of Web Communications at the University of Notre Dame, published some compelling numbers in 2013 that prove carousels aren’t effective at their purpose. Only 1% of website visitors actually click on the banners presented in a carousel. This is daunting because clients often rely on the carousel to display their most important feature. If only 1% of web users pay enough attention to click on a banner, why would someone want to feature their most important product there?

Yet, the carousel is still the element that clients argue most passionately for.

This is partly due to the fact that so many websites have carousels, it’s flashy and reminds office workers of Power Point presentations. But companies should rely more upon strategy than flashy carousels to get their ideas across, as carousels may work for SOME companies, but not all. Think about it for a moment: If you saw a insurance website just scrolling their packages information across the header of a website, would you want to read any of it? No, because it’s overwhelming to try and digest that much information. But if you were a clothing company, and you’re displaying the hottest fashions in your carousel, then you have a better chance at having someone click on the banners to see the products. While carousels work for SOME companies and verticals, they don’t work for the majority of websites.

Carousels take a long time to load.

Banners designed to fit screen resolutions are often big, so they require more than a few seconds to load even one, much less an average of three banners belonging to a carousel. Because of high-speed internet, the patience of an average web user is less than 10 seconds. If your carousel takes a full minute to load then you would’ve lost your user 50 seconds ago. Load times have a direct impact on bounce-rate, and reducing bounce-rate is critical in getting your company’s information to your users.

Carousels also don’t play nice with mobile devices.

If it takes a long time to load on your desktop browser, the carousel will take MUCH longer to load on your mobile device. Plus, often times, carousels don’t shrink down properly to fit your mobile device’s screen.

After working at Three29 for over a year now, I came to some other discoveries about clients and carousels. Clients who often request for carousels don’t actually know what to put there. When the time comes to inject their website with content, they discover that they have nothing to put in the carousel and don’t want to invest money to purchase photography for it. They just want something flashy to put in the header of their home page. If that’s the case, then discussing strategy with your web team is the best way to go. Strategic thinking and design can go a long way in creating a useful piece for your Home page that’ll help drive traffic to the target locations on your site. Carousels are dinosaurs that have been around on the internet for close to ten years now and are nothing hip: It should just go away.

Here are some useful sites for more information:
http://shouldiuseacarousel.com/
http://erikrunyon.com/2013/07/carousel-interaction-stats/