Image Carousels: Should You Use Them?

Last updated: May 3 2018

I’m sure you’ve seen a million image sliders over the years. The big banner of images and text cycling through the homepage. These are seen on many websites and is one of the most universally requested features by my clients, usually because it’s a ‘standard’ feature they expect to see on a website, or because there are various people in the business all clamoring to get their content on the front page.

But do they actually work? Lets find out!

No One Interacts With Your Image Slider

The first, and main reason I usually advise against using image carousels is simple. No one looks at them!

Often a client will request something be added to their image carousel because they want it to be one of the most prominent elements on their homepage to get the attention of their users. And of course, this makes logical sense – the image carousel is the biggest and boldest part of your homepage, and it’s located right at the top of the page to boot. But users do not always behave the way you might predict.

In fact, only about 1% of users will actually interact with an image carousel, and even then, the vast majority of that interaction is with the very first slide. What this means is that not only is your prominent, front-and-center content not actually being used by your users, it also means that prime real-estate on your homepage is being taken up by something that almost no one is even looking at!

Image Sliders Are Annoying

A common mistake with these image sliders is automatically cycling through banners every 5 seconds or so without any user input. Not only that, but more often than not the banners cycle through too fast, so even if a user would like to look at your banner, chances are that the banner they’re interested in has disappeared before they can fully absorb the content.

You’re Needlessly Slowing Down Your Website

One thing I often stress to clients is the value of a fast website. Not only do your users appreciate it, but Google loves a fast website too. Often the images in these carousels are quite large, usually taking up the full width of the page, so they’re usually relatively large files. There also tends to be 3+ images in these carousels, so this really begins to add up. Inevitably, this begins to take it’s toll on your loading times!

Is There ANY Reason To Use An Image Carousel?

Well,  when it comes to your users, probably not. But of course, your users are never truly the only group of people you have to consider when developing a website.

Management, business owners, heads of departments, etc. often feel that a certain bit of content needs to be displayed in a prominent location on the front page. And when you have multiple department heads all clamoring to get their bit of content in that prime bit of real-estate, you can end up with a bit of a mess.

This is where image carousels come in to play. Not to increase conversions, or to improve user experience, but to keep department heads happy. And that is an important consideration.

So What Should I Do Instead?

Good question! I suggest a single banner image with a simple message that the user can easily and quickly understand at a glance.

Or, if you want to get crazy, you could skip the banner entirely and just have the content the people are actually there to see.

Image Slider Stats – Erik Runyon
Carousels Annoy Users – Nielsen Norman Group