Sliders are an incredibly popular way of displaying content on WordPress homepages. In recent years, it’s been hard to find a WordPress site, especially an eCommerce site, that doesn’t have an image slider or carousel in a prominent position. They are a convenient way of displaying information—offers or products—in a dynamic and visually interesting way, and adhere to the (somewhat dubious) rule that most content should be above the “fold”. As an alternative to visually boring and static blocks of text, sliders are very appealing.
However, a recent blog post from Peep Laja at ConversionXL calls into question the effectiveness of using sliders and carousels for gaining conversions, and claims that they can have a significant detrimental effect on conversion rates. Peep is not alone in this opinion, and quotes a number of designers who agree.
Two of the most significant problems with using sliders are banner blindness and the temporal rather than spatial presentation of information. It’s worth having a deeper look at these two factors.
Most web designers should be familiar with the concept of banner blindness. It’s an effect that plagues online advertising and results in the extremely low click-through rate that modern advertisers see when compared to the rates they obtained in the early days of the Web. Banner blindness is an instance of what psychologists call habituation. Habituation is the decrease in an expected (and, in this case, desired) behavior in response to a repeated stimulus. In a marketer’s ideal world, banner ads would consistently claim the attention of a site’s visitors, but for either conscious or subconscious reasons, they do not. Visitors often pay no attention at all to banner ads, even when they are contextually relevant.
Visitors to a website very rarely start reading at the top and systematically scroll down a site (check out the heat maps), examining and consuming all the information presented. They are looking for specific information or links, and tend to reject anything that is “banner-like” as an unlikely source of salient information. Carousels and sliders match the pattern of a banner ad, and are therefore ignored.
The second factor is the temporal presentation of information. That is, information presented across time, rather than across space, as with static images and text. Visitors tend to scroll around and hunt for what they need; they do not sit and look at a particular point on a page while it changes. They will see one or two of the slides, maybe. If you think of your own browsing experience, how often do you use a slider’s navigation to click through each of the items in search of information?
These two effects may contribute to sliders being an ineffective method of presenting information, especially when that information is intended to elicit particular actions from visitors, like a click or a purchase.
What do you think? Does Peep Laja have it right? Or do you have evidence that banners are an effective way of converting visitors? Let us know in the comments below.
About Graeme Caldwell — Graeme works as an inbound marketer for Nexcess, a leading provider of Magento and WordPress hosting. Follow Nexcess on Twitter at @nexcess, Like them on Facebook and check out their tech/hosting blog, http://blog.nexcess.net/.