Website Sliders: Why We Don’t Use Them.

Website sliders; they’re one of the more contentious subjects in web design and a discussion we have on a regular basis with our clients. With this in mind we thought a blog post explaining our thoughts on website sliders would be a good idea.

Let’s start with the short answer to the question “Should I use a slider on my website?”. No. Why? Well there’s lots of reasons, but we’ll get to that in a minute.

The client’s point of view

If website sliders are such a bad idea, why are clients often so keen to have them?

As a design agency we’re lucky enough to work with brands who are passionate about what they do. Because of this they have a lot to say about their product or service. What better place than right at the top of their website? After all, that’s the first thing visitors to the website will see.

A client will often see website sliders as the most effective way to communicate several important messages about their brand. Hitting visitors with important content the moment they land on the website. This is often true if the website is trying to target more than one type of user or market several distinct products or services.

Many clients will be concerned with ‘the fold’ and will worry that content not immediately visible on a user’s screen will be missed. Of course, with the vast array of devices and screen sizes using the web these days, the fold is a redundant concept.

Sometimes it’s much more simple and clients will just like the idea of a bit of movement on their website.

But let’s look at some facts…

The facts about website sliders

We’ll not spend too long on stats about website sliders here as the excellent Should I Use A Carousel already covers this perfectly.

There’s one study we always come back to. It was conducted on nd.edu and showed that a link on a slider was clicked only 1.07% of the time in almost 4 million visits.

Out of those 1.07% of views, 89.1% clicked on a link in the first slide, out of five slides in total.

So out of 3.7 million visits, the links on slides 2-5 were clicked less than 4,500 times. Or 0.12%.

Making the argument against website sliders

The argument for including a slider will usually, if not always, be so that multiple pieces of important content can be given the highest possible visibility on the website.

The stats above demonstrate that, from a user’s point of view, this content is not very visible at all.

But there’s (a lot) more…

Focus

It’s commonly accepted that you don’t have a lot of time to grab a visitor’s attention.

Users of a website like to know that they’re in the right place pretty quickly. Research shows that a website has 5 seconds to grab a visitor’s attention and that 55% of visitors will spend less than 15 seconds on a website.

The short amount of time you have to grab a visitor’s attention needs to be used well. If you’re using a slider and trying to communicate multiple messages at the same time, then you’re already facing an uphill battle.

And to make things even worse, website sliders will have a negative impact on page load times; an important factor in both usability and SEO.

Usability

When you use website sliders, let’s say right at the top of the home page, it’s going to be the first thing that a visitor will see. Effectively you’re saying that the content in the slider is the most important content on the page.

Say for example that the slider has five slides. A user has to either click five times or wait until the slider automatically transitions to see the content in the last slide.

So it takes five clicks or as much as 10-20+ seconds to reach this supposedly important and prominent content. Doesn’t make much sense, does it?

Website sliders on mobile devices

Website sliders don’t tend to play nicely on mobile and touch devices. Yes some sliders support swiping and gestures, but can you be sure that it’s obvious to users that they can swipe to change slides?

On mobile devices slider controls are likely to be rendered too small to be considered usable. The content in the slides is likely to follow suit.

Page load times are even more critical when you take into account that users on mobile devices may have limited connectivity. The last thing you want to do is force them to download a large amount of unnecessary content. If the page takes several seconds to load, the user is likely to head somewhere else.

Accessibility

A slider that automatically transitions to the next slide after a set amount of time is a really bad idea.

How can you be sure that your user has finished reading the text on a slide? Everyone reads at different speeds so no matter what the transition time is set to, it’s making assumptions about your visitors. That’s never a good thing.

Visitors with more serious visual impairments may be using screen readers and text-only browsers to view a website. A good test of a website’s accessibility credentials is whether a page make sense when all styling and is removed.

It’s unlikely that a slider will make any sense at all when viewed like this.

SEO

Google doesn’t look favourably on content that is hidden with CSS, which all the slides apart from the first one will be by default.

This is because it content that is hidden can be seen as an attempt to trick the search engine into ranking a page higher than it should be with content that is not visible to human visitors.

Coming back to the argument of important content, isn’t it likely to be a bad thing if search engines don’t factor in some of your most important content when ranking the page?

And then, as we’ve already mentioned a couple of times, there’s the negative impact that sliders will have on page load times.

Want to know more?

The argument is pretty convincing but even with all this information it’s sometimes still difficult to convince clients that website sliders are a bad idea. Particularly on projects with a large number of stakeholders, many of who aren’t heavily involved in the design process.

Thankfully over the past year or two there seems to be the beginnings of a real move away from sliders so hopefully, as time goes on, they’ll become less and less prevalent and the web will be a more user-friendly place.

If you’d like to know more about our approach to web design at TAC, why not get in touch?