In theory, carousels on a website seem like a great idea. They give us the ability to put a variety of information within the same section of a webpage. Since a website’s homepage gets more traffic than any other page, you would think that a carousel at the top of that page would get the best visibility. Carousels also hold several slides, which make them sound even more appealing for cramming in as much information as possible. However, in practice, carousels don’t work.
Think about it: when was the last time you saw a carousel on a website? Do you remember waiting to see every slide? Or did you acknowledge the carousel’s existence and then carry on with browsing through the website without clicking on anything carousel-related?
Why do we ignore carousels?
They feel like advertisements. I don’t know about you, but I automatically ignore most web ads. How about animated ads? I am even more likely to ignore those. Since carousels typically have motion, they feel a lot more like ads to users than valuable content. Often, they serve as a way to showcase a website’s internal products, essentially making each slide an ad.
You can’t skim the content. The trend in web design is to let your content breathe—to spread it out on a page and embrace scrolling. Users are used to scrolling, and it allows them to quickly skim content to find the information they need. When you constrain content in a carousel, users can’t scroll to digest all the content at once or at their own pace. Instead, they need to either wait for the animated slides to move at whatever rate they were programmed to move, or manually click through each slide.
You can’t finish reading it either. If users are trying to engage with the carousel and read the content, chances are it will move to the next slide before they’ve finished exploring the content on the current slide. That’s distracting, and it makes the user experience clunky if people have to shuffle through the controls to find what they need. Also, users typically only see the first slide of information before ignoring the carousel and browsing to a different page. So why bother including all the additional slides?
What should I do instead?
Carousels are usually used as a catchall solution for promoting several pieces of content on one page. It’s also convenient to keep using the same slides for a while, which quickly makes the information stale and easy to ignore. In place of a carousel, you can use featured content that is constantly updated.
Create separate static pages. Instead of making separate slides for different pieces of information, focus on creating separate pages that you can link to in email or social media campaigns. Separate pages are more searchable, and search engines can easily index the content, making it easier for new visitors to discover it and see what they may have otherwise ignored in an animated carousel.