Put Away Content Carousels
I’ve had some recent requests for creating content carousels on projects or on existing website, they seem to be a magic bullet of sorts for whatever ails a project. 9 times out of 10, there is a simpler solution than using a content carousel so it’s time that we see less of them.
When I’m working with a client, together, we’ll try and go through a process to discover why they’ve chosen this as solution. Whatever the reason for choosing a carousel, I don’t like hearing that company X uses one, therefore we should use one as well. Even big companies make big UX and design mistakes.
Here are some of the problems I see with content carousels, and why you should carefully consider before deploying them on a website.
How does using a carousel solution achieve the primary goals for this content? If we have stated one single primary goal, it’s hard to achieve this goal when there are multiple rotating elements that all competing for the same primary attention.
Poor Click Through Rates
This is the most compelling reason to avoid the carousel. The further along your user browses through the content carousel, the worse-off the click through rates get. Click through rates are anywhere between 80 and 90 percent in the first slide, and after that the engagement drops off significantly. See the engagement on this article from eConsultancy. Why bother. Why expend all of that energy into having your designer create 4,5, or 6 slides, when user engagement drops off after the first few slides? Better get the first slide right.
Save the expense. The engagement on carousels aren’t good, here’s another tracking study on content carousels. And yet another study that found users were ignoring the carousels altogether.
Oh, and here are some Luke W. stats on carousels.
“The typical click-through rate of a carousel is 1-3%. Of those the majority click on the 1st image.” –@erunyon at #bdconf
— Luke Wroblewski (@lukew) July 22, 2013
Poor Page Load
Some carousels are engineered very well and can be very light and effective on resources. That effectiveness is lost when you have a half dozen (or more) content slides loading on a page. We need to use less jpg’s in web designs, not more. Your browser will be downloading all of those resources, regardless of whether or not your user is waiting around to see the content. Looking at the poor click through rates, this seems like a waste.
Well, If I must Use a Content Carousel
We just discussed conflicting goals, poor click though rates, and poor page load. If you’re still convinced to use one, make sure the content within them is all related. Show three featured products in a row, promote three events, or show a few features of your service. Don’t start mixing and matching content and taking your users from product, to service, to event, and about you. It’s confusing.
Deploying Content as One Giant Image
Don’t embed your headings and content within images on the web. Avoid this practice at all costs. This is cruel treatment for web browsers, it causes page bloat and the information is hidden from search engines. Unfortunately, this can be commonplace when reaching into the toolkit to deploy a content carousel.
Aggravate Your Users
Raise your hand if you’ve visited a site with a carousel only to have it switch before you’ve finished reading content? Dang, what slide was I on? Oh man, there aren’t any indicator dots. Whatever, moving on. Poor navigation and usability will send your visitors elsewhere. The indicator dots are a useless navigation decision because there isn’t any indication of what content is inside these content areas. I’ll take what’s behind dot number three!
I’m on the anti-carousel kick lately, and I’ve been collecting some resources that are helping make the case against using carousels. Bottom line is, make sure you really need one, before you decide to deploy a content carousel.