Are Sliders Driving Away Customers?

There's no doubt about it. The full-screen rotating image sliders favored by so many web designers can be striking.

They can also be annoying and counterproductive.

Let's look at just one recent example. I found some information related to an ongoing project on a site with attractive imagery, decent content and a few possibly pertinent facts. Unfortunately, my mission was at the mercy of the site designers, and each click brought fresh torments.

Why? Every major topic featured a slider (aka: carousel). This fad pervades the web, and often it's a mistake.

In this particular instance, essential facts were displayed in paragraphs on the image and below it. The details were different, so it was vital to read and understand both to grasp the key facts.

Sliders made this challenge impossible: Image with text. Images without it. Image with text. Images without it. You get the picture (pun intended).

The rotation was timed so there was just enough time to read a handful of words before the text disappeared, replaced by a new image. By the time the text reappeared, I had to start all over again. As an added irritant, there were no clickable controls to slow or stop the rotation.

After a little exploration, it became clear the entire site was constructed in this manner. Any specifics I hoped to glean flashed briefly on screen, then were quickly replaced with attractive but uninformative pictures.

I did what any rational user would do: I left.

I tracked down another source where the presentation wasn't dramatic, the images were static and the content was solid. In combination, these factors allowed me to quickly locate the information I needed, absorb the details and complete the task at hand. Following so closely on the heels of the slider fiasco, this experience was refreshing and straightforward.

Guess which site I'll visit again, and which one I'll avoid?

If you've bought into the myth that image sliders, carousels and rotating banners enhance your website, you might want to rethink your strategy. Here's why:
  1. Few products and services are so basic they can be conveyed in a series of images whizzing across the screen.
  2. Sliders only work in situations where each image transmits sufficient information to be self-explanatory.
  3. Readers routinely dismiss (block out) moving elements because they assume they're ads, not information. 

The aversion to sliders is more than a pet peeve. Studies conducted by Jakob Nielsen, the web usability expert, found automatic carousels annoy users and reduce their ability to find and act on the content or product they're actively seeking. (For more about Nielsen, go here and here.)

If online traffic is down, SEO rankings are slipping or sales are declining, it's time to take a good, hard look at your website. The dynamic image sliders you hoped would boost your brand and business are a fad to forego, and in fact might actually be driving away customers old and new.

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