By Sean Armstrong –
Imagine for a minute… You’re channel surfing… Flipping through the TV stations looking for something to watch. And, finally, you find one of your favorite shows and stop surfing.
Nope. Hold on. The TV station you’re watching just changed the show to another one. Well, that’s okay, it’s interesting too.
Whoops… Wait a second. Now there’s another show on that same channel!
You check the remote, but it’s two feet away from you and you haven’t touched it.
What’s going on?!?
And now the channel is back to the original show that brought you here in the first place.
Well, that’s what a home page slider – also known as an image carousel – can feel like to your website’s visitors.
To use another analogy… Think about any one of the numerous trainings you’ve attended.
The presenter starts the PowerPoint slideshow and starts talking. But, before the presenter finishes her first thought, she and the slides have moved on to another subject. And before finishing the next thought, they’ve moved on to another topic.
Bet you’d never take another class from them again!
Ideally, a presentation should start by grabbing your attention, prompt you to stay for the rest of the information, provide that information, and then tell you what to do next.
Well, that’s how any page of your website should function as well.
And this is why image carousels and sliders are quickly becoming the Betamax videocassettes of the Internet.
But, first, let’s be clear…
What Is a Slider or Image Carousel?
A website slider or carousel is the software that allows a series of images and/or text to appear for a specified amount of time on a specific page of your website, and then rotate or “slide” to another image, in order, with one set of images and text being replaced by the next after several seconds, and the next in turn after several more seconds, and so on.
While they’re less common today than they were a couple of years ago, you can still find them on quite a few therapists’ and many other businesses’ websites.
Because image carousels supposedly allow multiple messages designed for different target markets and prospective clients to appear in the critical “above the fold” real estate on a website – the area that appears on the screen without a visitor needing to scroll.
The theory is that home page visitors will hang around long enough to see each of the messages in the slider.
And it’s a theory I used to buy into…
Unfortunately, the theory is all wrong!
Home Page Sliders Work Against Your Website’s Goals
The vast majority of website visitors will only spend a few precious seconds on a site’s home page before either navigating to another page of the site or leaving the site altogether.
That’s right, your site’s visitors will never see all of your carousel’s slides. And the confusion multiple messages cause is as likely – if not more likely – to make your visitors leave your site as it is to get them to visit another of your site’s pages.
Let’s face it…
Whether you’re using paid advertising, social media, SEO, or some other traffic source, getting someone to just visit your site can often feel like a small miracle in itself.
So why would you greet your site’s visitors with something that numerous tests and studies are showing they DON’T want?
Here’s a closer look at why image carousels are a bad idea no matter how you look at them…
1) Carousels Have Abysmally Low Click-Through Rates
Less than 1%.
What does that mean?
Say your website gets 100 visitors each month… That means less than 1 of them is clicking on any of the images in your slider through to the content you want them to see.
If you get 250 visitors each month, that’s still less than 3 clicks on your carousel. In fact, you’d be lucky if even 2 people out of 250 clicked on any of the slides in your site’s slider.
Here are the results from a Search Engine Land usability study of different sites that use image carousels for branding purposes, promoting webinars and white papers, and promoting services.
As you can see from the chart, barely anyone clicks on the carousel regardless of what is being promoted with each slide.
What’s worse is that close to 90% of that 1% that actually clicks on ANY slider image clicks the FIRST image of the carousel (the first image they see).
That means any slides after the first have to share the remaining 10% or so of the 1% of visitors that actually click on the slider…
In other words, only .1% of your site’s visitors will ever click any image or slide in your carousel other than the first. That’s a tenth of one percent, in case you missed the decimal!
If only 1% of your site’s visitors are clicking on whatever it is that you’ve got occupying your site’s above-the-fold area, you’re wasting prime real estate.
Do you really want something that takes up so much valuable screen real estate generating so few results?
And, to further compound the problems with image carousels, the size, shape, and overall look of your site’s slider can make these numbers even lower.
We’ve all seen way too many banner ads across the tops of websites. It’s even led to a phenomenon known as “banner blindness.” Internet users are so used to banner ads that they simply ignore them.
Well, guess what often gets mistaken for a banner ad?
As the eye-tracking heat map above shows, your site’s visitors may very well by skipping right past your image carousel because it looks just like an ad!
2) Image Carousels Typically Aren’t Mobile Friendly
As we’ve discussed in a previous post (“Is Your Website Ready to Go Mobile? Why and How to Make Sure Your Website Is Mobile-Friendly?”), more and more consumers – including your prospective clients – are using mobile devices to browse the web, research, and connect with local businesses and service providers just like you.
This means your potential clients are looking for and finding your website on their tablets and smartphones.
And, image carousels are rarely mobile-friendly.
That’s right. Get ready for those beautiful images with accompanying text that you’ve got sliding by to shrink to an almost microscopic size, making them virtually illegible and non-existent for your site’s visitors.
And, even if your slider is mobile-friendly, given the nature of service coverage and most mobile data plans, mobile device users will still have to wait… and wait… for those big beautiful images to download and then be resized before they’ll see your slider.
You can almost hear people frantically clicking their browsers’ “back” buttons in a fit of impatience and frustration over how long it takes your site to load.
3) Sliders Can Hurt Your Site’s Search Engine Rankings
As just mentioned, the size of the images used in most carousels greatly reduce the speed at which your site loads, something Google and the other search engines take into account when ranking sites and view in a less-than-positive light.
The longer your site takes to load, the faster people leave your site without ever navigating to any of your site’s internal pages. This is known as a “bounce.”
And the more “bounces” your site has, the further your site falls in the organic search results.
And then there are the other negative search engine ranking factors associated with most sliders, such as Flash, text on images that Google can’t read, and unwanted heading tags that accompany your carousel’s underlying code.
4) Carousel Transition Timing
Deciding how quickly or slowly an image carousel should take to transition from one slide to the next has always been their Achilles heel.
Slide transitions almost always seem either:
- Too Quick – Take a look at this slider and try to read everything. Frustrating, isn’t it? Now, imagine you have vision issues or that English isn’t your first language. A carousel that scrolls to quickly between slides can be almost incomprehensible and all but guarantees frustrated users and, ultimately, bounces from your site.
- Too Slow – In order to overcome the problems of a carousel that transitions from one slide to the next too quickly, website owners often elect to have a generous amount of time pass between transitions. However, in this case, given the limited amount of time your site’s visitors are likely to spend on any given page of your site, they’ll likely assume your first slide is the only one, which is probably why around 90% of the people who actually click on carousel images click on only the first slide.
I’ve worked with clients who’ve struggled with this transition timing issue for so long, they eventually decided to turn the automatic transitions off and, instead, elect to allow their site’s visitors to control the transition from one slide to the next…
Do you want to guess how many visitors actually took the time to manually go through the slides?
It was a lot less than 1%.
Okay, the disadvantages of using sliders are pretty clear… But, I can hear the next question…
“What should we use on our home pages’ critical ‘above-the-fold’ area if not a slider?”
Look no further than…
The “Hero” Layout
To understand the “hero” layout, we need to better understand the “above-the-fol” area of your website.
“Above the fold” is a term that comes from newspaper layout terminology and it is, as the name implies, that section of the front page of the paper that is above the physical fold of the paper.
The above-the-fold section is the most important and valuable section of a newspaper, because everyone can see and read it without having to even pick up or unfold the paper.
Well, the above-the-fold – or first-fold – section of a web page is the portion of the page that is visible without the visitor having to scroll.
It’s the first thing your site’s visitors see.
It’s the most valuable real estate on any web page.
As such, the first-fold area on your site’s home page should convey the single most important thought underlying your product or service and either get the visitor to take action or move one step closer to whatever the goal of your site is.
With that in mind, let’s define the hero layout as…
A web page layout in which a single content section with ONE clear goal takes up the entire first-fold of a web page.
Hero layouts are typically large, stationary, and grandiose, taking up your entire screen, yet feeling simplistic at first glance.
The hero layout consistently outperforms home page sliders… Why?
Why You Should Use The Hero Layout
There’s a reason why companies like PayPal, Square, Dropbox, Evernote, Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and Spotify all use the hero layout.
It’s one of the highest-converting layouts on the Internet for a number of reasons.
And, when I talk about “more conversions,” I’m referring to getting more of your site’s visitors to take the action you desire.
Here are some of the reasons hero layouts convert better than sliders…
1) Hero Layouts Use ONE Static Image
Even if the image used in a hero layout is big, bold, beautiful, and large… It’s still only one static image.
Plus, one static image tends to display more uniformly no matter what type of device a visitor is using to view your site.
2) Hero Layouts Are More Consistent
If you’re targeting the right audience with the right message, you want to make sure you’re doing so consistently!
Hero layouts do this and make sure the main purpose or goal of your site is front and center for all of your visitors, no matter what browser or device they’re viewing it on.
3) Hero Layouts Are Better for Your Site’s Search Rankings
Granted, the rest of your page’s content will have much to do with how well the page ranks in Google and the other search engines, but at least it won’t be penalized the way it likely would when using a slider.
4) Hero Layouts Are Flexible
If you use an image carousel, unless you have a staff of designers and developers like Microsoft, Apple, or Netflix, you’re basically stuck with sliding images, a little text, and a button on each slide.
With the hero layout, a whole world of possibilities opens up to you…
Want a solid background with a content box and a single button? Done.
Want a photo that interacts (statically) with an opt-in form? Done.
Want to position yourself as an expert and sell your counseling or coaching services? Done.
Want to promote and sell more copies of your book? Done.
Unlike with a slider, the hero layout provides an almost limitless number of opportunities to mix and match images, text, forms, and calls to action to maximize the effectiveness of any page of your site.
While you may be able to make a slider work on your site, it’s just not a design that should be embraced any longer. Not with the success of the hero layout.
What Do You Think?
Are you currently using an image carousel on your therapy site? How about a hero layout? Would you have switched to or stopped using a slider before reading this post? Let us know your comments, questions, and experiences… We look forward to hearing from you!