This is Part 2 of an ongoing series – Dismantling the Homepage
Homepage sliders. Few people interact with them. Fewer still click them. Yet, we continue to use them. This post outlines what’s wrong with most homepage sliders and makes 3 recommendations for how to use a homepage slider correctly.
Habits. We all have them. Good habits. Bad habits. Gross habits. They exist because we all like having rituals. Doing the same thing over and over because they make us feel comfortable. Almost to the point where we don’t even know we are doing them anymore. They can become so prevalent, that even the people you commonly interact with don’t even know you are doing them either. It becomes second nature to you and everyone around you, that you basically begin to turn a blind to it. This is where something habitual can become dangerous. It can become a crutch.
For me and a lot of designers, that crutch is a homepage slider/carousel.
I’ve already waxed nostalgic on the fading relevance of the homepage, so why do we use up so much real estate with something like an image/content slider on a page with shrinking relevance? I know I have and probably will continue to do so. But why? Or better yet, how?
(Note: I’m about to use more exclamation marks then any human really should. I apologize in advance)
Big Sale! Everything Must Go!
Make a splash! Bigger is better! Put it on a billboard! I’m talking really loudly so you’ll hear me! This, in essence, is the reason why these homepage banners came into existence. It was a way to carve out a large part of the homepage to say something of the utmost importance. It’s at the top of the page and it’s really big, so it must be vital! Right? RIGHT!! It cuts through the clutter of the homepage.
Then someone most likely said, why say one thing when you can say two or three or four!?! In succession!! Advertising!!! It’s a lot like being hit over the head over and over again. Carousels now resemble shoving matches. Look at me! *one slide pushes the other slide out of the way* No, Look at me! I was here first! And THIS is how we cut through the clutter of the homepage, with MORE CLUTTER. That’s never a good thing. You don’t always win when you fight a fire with fire. But you do set more fires. The kind of fires people ignore and hope burn themselves out.
Move Along. Nothing to See Here.
And I think that’s just it. Website visitors anticipate a slider to appear on their homepage. (Clients, too.) Much like my habit to use one, they’ve gotten into the habit of expecting one. So much of a habit, that they don’t even notice that it is there anymore. And more than likely, ignore it. Or at least skip it to get to the “good stuff” below. No one likes to be yelled at – sonically or virtually. But this is exactly what these carousels feel like they’ve become. Instead of feeling like important, relevant content, the feel like… like… advertising. YUCK! I came to your website to learn more about your company, not to be sold to like I’m buying my 3rd car from you. So instead of embracing this real estate with some friendly reminders or affirmations about why I came here to begin with (who you are/what you do), I’m being inundated with stuff I really don’t care about or at least I don’t care about YET.
Too Much, Too Soon.
If I start my journey through your website on your homepage (which I rarely do anyway), odds are I know nothing about you. So why do I want to be told about something deeper than who you are or what you do at the very top of your page? It would be like meeting someone for the first time and instead of saying “Hi, my name is John. Nice to meet you,” I say something like “Hi. I once ate a goldfish on a dare in the 4th grade.” Too much information, too fast. All I wanted was an introduction, why do I care about what you did in the 4th grade? I don’t. At least not yet. Maybe after I learn a bit more about you, it would be nice to know just what you would do for a Snickers bar. But not yet. Not now. But that’s what we’ve begun doing with sliders on the homepage. We tell people about larger things they will eventually want to know, but not if this is their introduction. Your homepage target audience is strangers. Treat them that way. Keep content that is relevant for the uninitiated at the top.
Clean Up Your Act
This may sound like I’m picking on the lowly slider, but I’m not. Like I stated previously, I have been using them for quite some time and will probably continue to do so. But I think it’s more about instituting a few more guidelines to take back the homepage carousel to make it useful. And it’s actually quite simple.
1) Use the real estate at the top of your page to talk to complete strangers. You don’t often get returning visitors to your homepage. It’s more than likely they bookmark your blog since that’s where the “fresh” content comes from anyway. This means staying within the obvious. The who we are’s and what we do’s of the world. For this you may not even need a carousel with multiple slides to begin with. Just a single banner.
2) If you are going to use a multiple slide carousel on your homepage, then keep the content of all sliders similar. If you want to use it for news, then all your slides should pertain to news. Choose a singular vision for it’s use and stick with it. Projects, testimonials, recent blog posts, etc.
3) Eliminate automatic rotating sliders and don’t hide or make their navigation tricky. People like to be in control of their experience. Don’t force their hand. Don’t set your carousel to move unless the user is ready and clicks a very obvious forward/backward arrow to do so.
So here I sit. Telling you sliders are bad or at least can be bad, yet I will continue to use them. It’s a really strange place to be. It feels hypocritical in a way. But that’s the way it is. People expect them. Clients expect them. So it’s best to start using them in a more intelligent and deliberate manner, before having the conversation about not having one at all. That day will come. Hopefully sooner rather than later.
Don’t Take My Word For It
My series – Dismantling the Homepage – is part exploration and part experimentation. So I’d love to hear your opinion.