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October 10, 2013 By Hendrik-Jan Francke

Home page slideshows are more popular than they should be

Slideshows (or carousels) are a popular homepage feature that allow multiple pieces of content to occupy prime real estate above the fold. I admit, it is easy to get sold on a slideshow for the home page – it makes easier the tough decision of what message to displayed above the fold.

Yet my gut was telling me slideshows aren’t as good as they seem; is this ubiquitous homepage standby worth the space?

Recently we at Bright Orange Thread found some usability research that confirmed our instinct:

  • Users only view one or two slides: In a study by Notre Dame, only 1% of users click on a slide show feature and 84% of these clicks were
    on the first slide.
  • Auto-scrolling slides distract users: Studies show that motion from transitioning from slide to slide decreases visibility for the slide and the rest of the page.

Bottom line - moving sliders are ineffective, do not convert, and disract users from your important message.

Critics also point out that the slideshow navigation rarely provides context. Since the next arrows are just arrows, users have no idea whether it is worth looking at slide two. Without a clue, people have no motivation to see the next slide!

So what should you do?

Be strong: create 1 powerful brand tile instead of 3 ‘ok’ brand tiles

If you think you have several strong messages weaved throughout three or four rotating slides, imagine the impact of unifying them into one, powerful, mega-message. Rather than weaving several messages throughout a slideshow, create one compelling message that describes your brand and directly impacts your audience. Less is more.

If you must use a slider, follow these guidelines

While I'm advocating not to use sliders, I still use them when requested. While they might not result in many click throughs, they can help building your brand image or telling a story. Here are some general rules of thumb to follow:

  • No automatic scrolling - it's hard to focus when the message disappears before you're finished reading! Can you imagine if real life moved that quickly?
  • No bland stock photography - if you want to use the slider as a space to share images that reflect your brand, use real images! Stock photography is often ignored, makes your page look trite, and adds no value to your message. This should be a rule of thumb across your entire site.
  • Don't include your main page CTA- unless it's not important to you that people click! Studies show slideshow offers are often overlooked!

Improve the impact of your homepage by taking an outside-in perspective

Take a look at your homepage from the perspective of a prospect or client. Do you think this slideshow is effective? Are you seeing what you want to see? Is the content buried somewhere that’s not easy to find? If so, consider how changing your homepage layout could improve the impact of the homepage and increase your website conversions.

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