When I go to a website and the first thing I see is a large slider at the top, I immediately scroll down and avoid it entirely. Most will react the same way due to a behavior known as banner blindness.
Users Ignore Anything That Resembles Web Advertising
According to Nielsen Norman Group, banner blindness is where users have learned to “ignore content that resembles ads, is close to ads, or appears in locations traditionally dedicated to ads.”
Almost every slider you see on a website is used like a rotating billboard of advertisements for the company or product. Therefore, we tend to ignore sliders, especially content after the first slide.
If you have content you DON’T want users to see, put it in a slider.
Through usability testing, Nielsen Norman Group has found banner blindness to be a problem for at least 25 years, first reporting about it in 1997. However, clients and developers are still trying to make it work because it’s familiar.
The Ineffectiveness of Sliders
Several studies have investigated the effectiveness of sliders, and they all seem to point to the same conclusion: sliders don’t work.
The Notre Dame Experiment
One of the most well-known studies on this topic is from Erik Runyon at Notre Dame University. He ran an experiment on the Notre Dame website (nd.edu) for six months to test the click-through rate on the home page slider.
During the six months, the home page got 3,755,297 total visits, and only 1% of those visitors clicked on a slider feature. If you’re trying to get clicks on your home page slider, that’s a 99% failure rate.
Of the 1% of clicks, over 89% were on the first slide, with the other slides only getting about 3% or less interaction. Essentially, the user ignored everything after the first slide.
The University of York Experiment
Intrigued by the data from Erik Runyon’s Notre Dame experiment, many others decided to test the effectiveness of their own sliders. Paul Kelly conducted a similar experiment for the University of York’s website and found similar results. Over half of the total clicks on the slider came from the first slide, while the users virtually ignored every other slide.
Carousels (aka Sliders) Negatively Impact SEO
“One of the most prevalent design flaws in B2B websites is the use of carousels (or sliders) on the homepage. Carousels are an ineffective way to target user personas, which ends up hurting the site’s SEO and usability.”– Harrison Jones
Harrison Jones of Search Engine Land investigated sliders (carousels) on B2B sites to gain insight into their effectiveness. He found that nobody clicks on the sliders. The table below shows the click percentage for sliders on three different B2B websites he monitored. Of the three B2B websites, the highest click percentage was a measly 0.65%. Of the 4,854 visitors, only 32 of them clicked the slider content.
In addition to the poor click percentage for sliders, Jones also notes they can negatively impact website SEO, with page performance being one of the worst offenders. When clients or developers insist on using full-width, hi-res images for their sliders, this can cause slow load times, especially on mobile. Studies show that over 50% of users abandon pages if they take longer than three seconds to load on mobile. The longer your site takes to load, the more potential clients you will lose.
Sliders Provide Poor User Experience (UX)
In almost every instance, sliders simply provide a poor user experience. Don’t just take my word for it. Let’s look at what Google has to say. According to Google’s UX Playbook for Retail, which highlights best practices for optimal user experience on retail websites, home pages, and landing pages should remove automatic carousels (sliders) because they have a high bounce rate.
Google goes on to say, “Carousels can be perceived as banners and therefore will be ignored. The user should always be in control.” They listed three reasons carousels don’t work: “Reason #1: Human eye reacts to movement (and will miss the important stuff). Reason #2: Too many messages equal no message. Reason #3: Banner blindness.”
In this same playbook, Google highlighted many “best-in-class” websites showcasing how they provided a quality user experience. Their best-in-class home page example listed having no revolving carousels (sliders) on the page as a positive.
The Negative Data on Sliders is Undeniable
The best way to convince clients to adopt best practices on their website is by sharing real-world experiments and reliable user data that reinforces proper UX decisions. Sliders came into existence during the “above the fold” battles between web designers and clients. They offered a way to cram as much information above the fold as possible. The problem is users don’t engage with that information. Another way to think about too many messages is like bolding everything in the text—if everything is bold, nothing is bold. Even worse, some of the text is hidden. They are also perceived as ads and subsequently ignored.
A static hero section may be the best alternative to the website slider because it allows the user to focus on one concise message and key call to action prominently featured on the page. If you hook the user in with quality content up top, they’ll be open to seeing what else you have to offer on the rest of your home page and website.
If you’re still not convinced that sliders are a terrible user experience, check out shouldiuseacarousel.com for an immersive, annoying experience.