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Inbound Marketing Blog

The Death of the Slider

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Sliders, Rotators and Carousels. It doesn't really matter what you call them, but chances are, you know what I'm talking about. (and in case you don't it's the thing at the top of the website that cycles, usually unrelated, text and images). And it’s also quite possible that you think no website is complete without one. But you're wrong! I'm going to take the next several minutes to dispel that myth and hopefully, put these ancient artifacts of the web to bed once and for all.
 
You can call them whatever you want, but for the sake of this article, I’m just going to call them sliders. They’re a staple of the website of yesteryear. They're that old friend at the party (usually me) who's long overstayed their welcome. The problem is, a lot of people still think that guy's the life of the party, when in reality, he needs to be kicked out and never invited back.
 
At MINDSCAPE, we deal with modern websites on a daily basis. We create them and we look to them as a source of inspiration. The problem is, if you're not actively seeking them out, a truly modern website is still hard to come by.
 
The thing is, most websites were last redesigned years ago, so while they’re using outdated techniques, we still see sliders everywhere. And since we see them everywhere, we just assume we need one on our site.
 

Why dont they work?


There are several reasons why sliders aren't practical, but for the sake of writing a blog post and not a novel, I'm just going to address three of them here.

1 | Sliders serve to please the company, not the visitor

“Carousels are effective at being able to tell people in Marketing/Senior Management that their latest idea is on the Home Page.”
This quote from Lee Duddel at whatusersdo.com sums it up perfectly. The slider is largely seen as a compromise that will allow everyone in the company to push their personal agenda to the homepage. Maybe Judy in HR thinks the homepage should be used to attract qualified job candidates. Meanwhile, Steve over in Product Development really, really wants to promote his latest widget. But what about the CEO Larry, whose daughter just made a really great fingerpainting in her Kindergarten art class? Let’s just put them all in a slider and call it a day. 
 
But here’s the thing: Good design has the user’s best interest in mind, not the personal agenda of your company's Senior Management.
 

2 | Sliders send mixed signals

Simply put, too many messages means no real message and therefore, no clear objective. Pushing multiple competing messages to the homepage causes something called "banner blindness,” a phenomenon where your users consciously (or subconsciously) ignore what they perceive to be advertisements. Think about how you generally filter out ads on a website, even without ad-blocking software installed on your computer. Do you really want your users to mentally block out the most important piece of real estate on your homepage?
 
First, determine the main purpose of your site, then make it easy for your visitors to accomplish that.
 
 

3 | Contrary to popular belief, no one actually clicks them

 
Most people think of that area above the fold as prime real estate. And they’re right. It’s the first thing users see when they hit your homepage, so there’s no denying how important it is. But the only slide that truly reaps the benefit is the slide in first position. The rest of the slides are as good as dead.
 
Erik Runyon found that when it comes to slider interaction, only 1% clicked a slide. Of those 1%, 89% clicked on the slide in the first position.
 
Think about those numbers for a moment. For the sake of your company, let’s just hope Larry’s daughter's fingerpainting wasn’t the first slide in position.
 
You can read more about Erik's study here: https://erikrunyon.com/2013/07/carousel-interaction-stats/
 
 

Are there any acceptable uses of sliders?

 
Okay, so here’s where I back track a little. The problem with sliders is that they’re almost always used to push multiple, competing messages. But what if multiple slides are used to support the same message?
 
We recently created a website for one of our clients that features this type of slider.  When clients bring up sliders (and it inevitably happens), I typically give them the same spiel I've just give you. But this particular instance is different.
 
Normally, I’d suggest that they use that real estate above the fold to clearly and concisely tell users what they do. I'd say “Tell me the purpose of this site in one sentence.” But with our client it is so self explanatory that it's just not necessary for them.
 
Instead, we use that area to showcase their product lines with a (wait for it)... slider. But the key difference here is, the slides are not competing with each other, they are complimenting each other. The message is the same. 
 

So, what’s replacing the slider?

 
The examples above help to address some of the inherent flaws in using sliders, but if you’re not going to use one, what are some of your other options?
 

1 | Hero banners with a single, targeted message

This has been the trend in the last few years. Replace several slides with one static hero shot that quickly establishes what you do.
 

2 | Video backgrounds

Similar to the static hero banner, video backgrounds serve the same purpose, but breath more life into that area. It’s the same targeted message I talked about above, but with a beautiful video playing behind it. Not several different videos, mind you. Just one.
 

3 | User self-identification

Chances are, you’re serving multiple user personas with your site. They could all have similar objectives, but you speak to them differently and they travel down different paths on your site. Use this area to help those personas quickly self-identify and chose the most relevant path for their journey.
 
 
Do you have sliders on your site that you want to get rid of? Or does your site just need a little sprucing up?

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Topics: Design, Inbound Marketing

Mark Swanson

Written by Mark Swanson

Mark is a Senior UI/UX Designer at MINDSCAPE. He makes the websites you use easier to use and has been designing for the screen for over 14 years. Outside of work, he likes watching documentaries, playing music and rolling in the dirt with dogs (both his own and random strays). He also doesn't photograph very well.

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