If you surf the web, you’ll probably see that more and more websites have a slider that rotates images and text and usually at the top of the home page (here’s an example of what a slider looks like).
It seems like nearly every client who’s hiring someone to build their website absolutely must have one while nearly every web developer and online marketing professional that I’ve talked to hides behind their laptop and covers their ears when they hear the word slider.
The great slider debate got me looking into researching the facts, myths, professional opinion, studies, and anything else I could get my hands on.
This article seems to hit the nail on the head in summing up the problems with most sliders, especially ones that are included on sites “…because they are really freaking cool!”. It also does a good job providing suggestions for how to make sliders work for you if you are hell-bent on including one.
When website sliders can work:
Here are two websites with sliders that seem to make sense and add value to the website (thank you Nicole Pereira for sharing these with me!):
Both of these sliders seem to add value by solidifying the branding and trust in the company. They don’t highlight special deals or offers or try to convert all by themselves (a Notre Dame slider study would suggest trying to make conversions directly from a slider is not the best idea).
I’d really like to see some concrete data from a large enough case study on how sliders affect conversion rates. ServerTastic has begun a slider case study on their own website doing A/B testing on revenue generated with and without a slider and from early results they conclude that “At the moment the non-slider variant has a 36% chance of beating the original…However the sample size is fairly small at present so we will have to wait and see which one wins!”. Their results have yet to be released, but I got word from Servertastic owner Andy Gambles that they will be publishing them sometime in the near future (will link once available).
A few take-home points on website sliders:
- Ask the right questions: What value will a slider will add to your site? How will it influence site visitors to take the action you want them to take? Will it take up too much valuable real estate on your site and cover up important content? Even if you decide that you want a slider, you’re now in a position to make it work better for you.
- Don’t rely on your slider to produce conversions on their own. Sliders seem to be the most effective when they provide a powerful, prominent message of who you are and what you are all about and not when they are used to highlight special deals newsletter sign-ups, etc.
- If you have a slider, make sure it’s not killing your page load time. Nobody wants to wait around for images to load.
- The fact that nearly every client finds sliders attractive suggests that people visiting your site also find sliders attractive. I find Stella Artois beer to taste like raw sewage but they’ve made millions by packaging their beer in a way that makes people go “Ooooh, that’s classy. I want to buy it so I can be classy too.” That said, this is all speculation until we have more hard data on how sliders affect conversions on goals and other important website measures.
- There is no simple yes/no answer to the question “Should I have a slider on my site?”. Every organization is unique and will have their own optimal way of presenting their information. Although if you can’t think of a solid reason to have one, you probably would do okay without one 🙂
Other conversations happening in the great slider debate:
- StackExchange thread about sliders
- Chris Lema’s slider performance comparison
- Brian Krogsgard – Sliders Suck
- Ansel Taft’s “Sliders must die (or not)” resources
- Smashing Magazine: Sliders in Web Design – When and How to Use Them
Did I miss anything? What else is important to consider when talking about website sliders? Sound off in the comments.