Long-time readers will know that I really don’t like “carousels”. These are the rotating slideshows which have become almost a standard on corporate website home pages. They were invented by web designers to overcome the problem of companies wanting single, impressive big images on their home page, but also wanting to keep half a dozen different divisional or product managers happy. The result, in my opinion, is something which seems to do the job when everyone sees it demonstrated in a conference room, but in reality is a flawed compromise.
Carousels would be fine if website visitors were happy to stick around and watch them scroll through for 20 or 30 seconds. In reality, almost nobody stays on a website’s home page for more than a few seconds – they click through to where they want to go as quickly as possible.
The result is that the second and subsequent slides in the carousel hardly get seen by anyone. This would be OK, if it weren’t for the fact that the first slide does get seen and digested by the visitor, but often shows just a small selection of what the company has to offer. So the visitor only sees the slide which says: “Your leading blue widget solutions provider” (or some similar marketing-speak), and never sees the slides which point out that the company also makes red and yellow widgets.
Humans can skim through a selection of static messages and digest the overall content very quickly indeed. Carousel slideshows work reasonably well when they’re used to illustrate a list of items which appears permanently alongside them, or when their content is repeated as static panels too. They can also be used to liven up a page where people might be stuck for 10 seconds or more because there’s a form to complete. Otherwise, they need to be really simple and rush by very quickly if you’re going to guarantee visitors will see all the messages.