Recently on a client website update, we were wrestling with an image carousel – or slider or image rotator or whatever you want to call the very popular home page feature that typically includes a series of large images, headlines, and links to interior pages (or some combination thereof) meant to highlight the most important messages of the site.
At some point during this wrestling match – which we did wind up winning – we decided to look more deeply into a truth we had taken to be self-evident for a really long time. Are carousels effective? Here’s what we found.
In a word, no. There’s ample evidence suggesting that your site visitors are missing not just the messages that appear later in the rotation, but also the message for the very first message that appears on the site.
This may be related to the rise in banner advertising and web users’ ability/propensity to tune out advertising or anything that looks like it might be advertising. (This discussion contains links to some of the underlying research, as does this page.)
The real issue, though, isn’t that people are ignoring your big splashy message because the think it might be an advertising banner; they’re ignoring your big splashy message because it is an advertising banner.
Take a look at the image rotators you see as you make your way around the web. Far too many of them offer nothing more than marketing speak and “blah blah blah” blather. Your audience skips over it because it offers nothing of value to them.
That’s not to say that you should unconditionally abandon image rotators. If your analytics indicate that this feature is being ignored, you may want to test new messaging before you abandon the feature entirely. (Though the tide may have turned to far and the general web audience may be too conditioned against image rotators for them to work for the foreseeable future.)
In other words, focus on more meaningful content and you will see greater engagement.