People have seen such an abundance of image sliders, that, similar as with banner ads, they simply ignore them or get annoyed by them. Visitors have virtually zero patience when it comes to scrolling or searching for what they need – they want to see it (and how to get it) immediately. Time and again, heatmaps of mouse and scroll activity of mouse and scroll activity on homepages display a deep, cold, low-activity blue in the area of the sliders, and warmer reds just below them.
What do the statistics say?
Around 2010, sliders first began making appearances on websites. Then, in the first half of this decade, they caught on like wildfire, and everyone was jumping on the bandwagon. However, they did so mostly for the wrong reasons, e.g. because they looked 'cool' or because it was a great tool for office politics, where every manager could have a voice at the top of the company’s homepage. The results have been exactly the opposite from what everyone was expecting.
You may be familiar with the landmark study on the subject of sliders published in 2013 by the Nielsen Norman Group, as well as the study done by Erik Runyon on the University of Notre Dame website, providing a slap in the face to the carousel fad. Even though the studies were published four years, ago, the results have been reaffirmed time and again. Sliders, the research noted, received a meager 1% of homepage clicks, on average. When you think of it, this number is astounding, seeing as most sliders take up the bulk of the homepage space before the fold. Moreover, 84% of slider clicks were on the first slide/image – completely voiding the logic for using sliders in the first place.
However, the slider trend still going strong despite the evidence against them. You might ask, how did so many people and businesses go so wrong with sliders?
The answer: By not understanding the psychology of how sliders impact the user experience.
Sliders and loss of control
How do sliders on homepages pertain to the psychology of the user experience?
In one word: Control.
If you can provide a person with a sense of control, you will improve their overall customer experience, motivating them to delve further into your site and offerings. The opposite is true, too. Take away control, and you will turn your site visitors into site abandoners.
Sliders remove the sense of control from site visitors in a few different ways, such as:
1. They move!
The human eye reacts to motion. Shifting slides attract visitors’ eyes, causing them to miss out on important content, or distracting them from the content that they actually want to see.
2. Timing is tough
Sliders tend to rotate too fast or too slowly. Many times, people will click on a sliding image in order to consume the content on it, but the automatic sliding mechanism kicks in again. These timing issues lead people to feel frustrated and leave the site.
3. Message mania
Every senior manager wants to tout their wares and services in the carousel. The result is too many messages, leading to confusion, which equates to no message at all. This makes it difficult for site visitors to understand what it is that you do and offer, which results in site abandonment.
What, then, are marketers looking to as alternatives?
Heroes and other saviors
To avoid the negative impact that sliders and carousels have on homepage KPIs, there are a few solutions that you can consider implementing instead:
A hero image
The hero image is the most widespread and fastest growing substitute for sliders. A single, static, well-chosen hero image, with short, succinct text and a clear call-to-action (CTA), visually conveys your main message and clearly tells visitors what their next step should be. Skype presents an excellent example of this practice in action:
You could take this a step further by implementing personalization, showing different hero images with customized CTAs and messages geared towards different visitors based on where they are in the buyer journey. This removes guesswork on part of the user, and instills control.
Lead generation form
Whether you want visitors to request more information about your services or download a special offer, placing a relevant form at the top of your homepage can help guide customers through the buyer journey. A great example of this in action is on Basecamp’s homepage:
For websites that have many products or solutions, an easy-to-use search form at the top of the homepage lets users get straight to where they want to go by allowing them to search for the items that they are looking for. A prime example of this can be seen in the Koke Inc. homepage design:
The content that users want
Instead of replacing the sliders with one of the above options, you could simply replace them with the information that site visitors are actually coming to the site for (which you can determine based on analyses from session replays and/or mouse heatmaps), which usually gets pushed down below the fold by the slider section.
Improve bounce and conversion rates
Sliders are on their way out (albeit slowly). Whether you choose to replace yours with one of the options, above, or decide to go another way, you significantly strengthen your chances of improving your customer experience, reducing bounce rates and increasing conversions. By getting rid of the rotating image carousel, you give your site visitors the control they crave to quickly and easily find the content they are looking for, keeping them on your site longer and making it possible for you to guide them through the conversion funnel.