When and How to Use Sliders
Carousels, sliders, or rotators are seen throughout the web. They were originally created to serve multiple images or messages within a limited space – the image and message simply changes without the user having to do a thing. It’s like watching a television commercial. However, these carousels, sliders and rotators are going out of favour. Why? Well, how many people do you know like watching TV ads? The same answer applies to watching auto-rotating marketing carousels. Study after study show that they convert and engage much worse than static content. So should we not use them at all? The answer is not so straight forward.
When to Use Carousels, Sliders or Rotators
The kind of carousels we see most of the time and which, are also the most abhorred, are the marketing carousels on home pages. These typically present various marketing messages or promotions to the visitor and the viewer doesn’t know what is coming up next.
The web is becoming a super crowded and busy place. People have less time and more importantly, patience. If a visitor has to wait 1 second to see the next slide, they would prefer to look at something else in that time. That 1 second wait time results in loss engagement. Also, the visitor doesn’t know what they’ll be getting for waiting. Will the next slide simply present another unengaging message or offer? If so, why wait? Why not just scroll or click on something else that looks more interesting?
The big problem with marketing carousels are that they don’t provide the user with any context as to what is coming up or why the user should continue watching. If you used a carousel in another scenario where there is context, say a product image carousel on an online store, this totally changes its effectiveness. Image carousels do engage and can increase conversions so the answer is not simply to rule them out.
How Carousels Should be Used
If you are going to use a carousel, how should you use it? The main problem with carousels is auto play or advancement. This is where the slide changes after a certain amount of time. Auto playing carousels undermines a user’s ability to interact with the interface as it changes it before the user can actually make a click or swipe.
If you must have auto play on, then add script to turn it off as soon as the user moves their mouse over the carousel or on mobile, when an active touch is registered on the device. This will at least eliminate the problem of a user trying to click on a slide and having it change on them.
The conclusion is not black or white. The answer to whether you should use a carousel or not is it depends. If it has context and is useful to your users, then they can actually help.