Until fairly recently, there has been a school of thought, or in fact what fast became a design best practice to use a multi-image carousel in prime position on website homepages.
The rationale is sound – select good images, overlay text that highlights special offers, Unique Selling Points, confidence-building straplines, and use the variety to sell a number of different aspects of your business.
But in practice, these carousel sliders are now believed to have a negative impact in three specific ways: User Experience (UX), SEO and Real Estate dominance.
The UX question: an overwhelming argument against carousels
Last year, American Ivy League University Notre Dame ran tests on the Click Through Rates (CTRs) on image carousels.
The aim of the experiment was to determine whether a range of enticing images and messages encouraged a greater CTR overall, and then specifically they wanted to understand which image (in terms of position) was the most effective.
The results were surpringly polarised – overall, the results showed that just 1% of clicks on their test site were on carousel images overall, and that an overwhelming 84% of clicks were on the first slide.
In unpacking these results, conversion analysts and specialists cited the following reasons they believe the carousel delivered so poorly:
- Banner blindness, where oftentimes the images look more like adverts, and are thus roundly iggnored by visitors
- Focus is/can be lost due to too many carousel images all competing for visitor attention
- In most instances the carousel is missed as visitors scroll straight downwards to look for more direct/targeted entry points that serve their needs (oftentimes the carousel image they see first does not answer that question – there’s an element of luck involved as to whether they do or not – can you afford to take that risk?)
- Many carousels move/scroll too quickly, and actually frustrate visitors who want more time to read something before it switches out. There is also a frustratingly inconsistent functionality for manually controlling a scrolling carousel – arrows are oftentimes finicky and camoflaged, making manual control difficult.
The SEO question: it’s not good news for carousels
Good SEO is vital to ensure solid rankings in SERPs. Site code and functionality must be spot on to allow Google to crawl sites effectively, and rank them accordingly.
Carousel are known to have a profoundly negative impact on Google’s ability to crawl a site. Specifically, they:
- Can slow down site speed (depending on the type of slider used, and how many/what resolution images)
- Oftentime create multiple H1 tags automatically for each image loaded into the slider – very bad for SEO
- Generally don’t format and/or work well on mobile
- Can still be Flash-based (unlikely but not impossible) – this is disastrous as Flash cannot be crawled for SEO
The Real Estate question: too much space wasted on ineffective functionality
Space on websites (and particularly mobile sites) is at a premium. Every pixel counts, and home pages need to engage visitors as quickly as possible to encourage interaction and goal funnelling.
Conversionista, a company in Sweden specialising in conversion and goal-efficiency conducted a test that included an eye-tracker, and found that a static image held the eye 38% more often (40% of the time compared to 2% when the image was part of a carousel).
Adobe Optimization Manager Blair Keen took that test one step further, and instead of replacing the slider with a static image, he simply removed the slider entirely, simply raising all of the contents below it into a more visible space on the page. He tested this against the version that had the slider and found that the version without resulted in a 23% increase in sales.
So what is current best practice?
Using strong visuals on your home page can still be an incredibly effective way of immediately engaging a visitor and conveying the all-important message about what your business does.
You may also want to use images to promote specific things – a special offer, a unique service, a great piece of PR/news.
How best to achieve this?
- Create a slider that doesn’t scroll automatically, but rather uses thumbnails and a hover/click function that encourages interaction
- Use a static image, but change it often enough to keep the site fresh
- Drop the hero image and slider, and have your key entry points as the main images on the site
For a free assessment of your website’s structure and visual appeal, contact Realnet today.