Website sliders (A.K.A carousels or slideshows) are one of the most widely used features on almost all websites.
Which is surprising.
Because there isn’t a single shred of evidence that suggests sliders do any good.
It gets worse:
Studies have conclusively proven on multiple occasions the futility of website sliders.
Simply put, using a website slider will result in fewer clicks, slower load times, and frustrated visitors.
You might be wondering…if not a website slider, what should I, or my business’ website use?
The pervasiveness of the website slider
To make a point, a website slider (A.K.A. carousel) is a box on your website with multiple panels that rotate automatically every five seconds or so.
Most commonly, a slider is placed in the very first section on a website at the very top of the homepage.
Bottom line: Businesses love sliders.
We did a quick study of websites, both business and personal, from around the world.
Of all of the websites that we tested, the majority lacked a primary focal point. And while we weren’t tracking website slider usage specifically, many of the websites lacking a primary focal point failed this part of the test because they were using sliders.
25 of the 30 most popular business website themes have sliders at the top of the homepage
This is crazy:
I visited one of the most popular website theme marketplaces in the world – ThemeForest by Envato – and typed the word “business” into the search bar.
This search returned 30 first-page results of website themes designed specifically for small to large-sized businesses.
As I parsed through the results, I found that 25 of the 30 themes had a website slider at the very top of the page.
83% of the search results used website sliders in the most prominent position on the entire website.
No doubt about it, businesses love website sliders.
The #1 reason why website sliders exist
You might be wondering…if sliders are really so bad, why do so many websites use them?
Simply put, website sliders are popular because they allow you to display more than one promotion at the top of your website.
To make a point, most businesses have many different products or offers (Weekend events, Black Friday sales, food menu, drinks, women’s clothes, men’s clothes, physiotherapy, tours etc.).
Every product and event is great so it should be at the top of the homepage, right? How can we make this happen?
Solution: Website slider.
The allure of the slider is that everything gets a piece of the promotion pie.
The line of thinking goes like this: Why limit our website to a single message when we could promote five things at once?
But this is problematic.
Because instead of simplifying your business’ goals, promoting multiple things at once actually dilutes and complicates your goal.
I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.’ – Mark Twain
Perhaps you’ve heard the following quote, often attributed to Alexander Hamilton: “Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.”
Frederick the Great said it a little differently: “He who defends everything defends nothing.”
Mark Twain is quoted as saying: “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.”
What’s the bottom line?
When your business uses a website slider to promote everything, you end up promoting nothing. Your message gets ignored.
How do I know this?
Because there isn’t a single shred of evidence suggesting that sliders actually work. On the contrary, the data is clear – sliders are fruitless.
What’s the real story?
Let’s take a look at the 3 research-backed reasons why you should delete your website slider immediately…
#1 – Sliders get clicked less than 1% of the time
The theory of the website slider is simple: a user sees a variety of different promotions and clicks on the one that most interests them.
The reality of the website slider is very different.
A study conducted by Notre Dame University found that sliders have a clickthrough rate of less than 1%. Furthermore, 84% of those clicks were on the first slide in the rotation.1
This cannot be overstated: The average click-through-rate across all industries is around 3.5%.2 So if the primary call-to-action on your website has a clickthrough rate of less than 1% – that’s a bad spot to be in.
The average clickthrough rate for sliders is less than 1% – more than 3X worse than the average
It gets worse…
A similar study was conducted by the digital agency called Beaconfire. And this study looked exclusively at sliders on websites of non-profit organizations.
Again, clickthrough rates of less than 1%.3
Beacon’s key takeaway was this: “People might notice the first couple slides, but they’re not likely to click, and beyond that, no one is even seeing them.”
But wait there’s more…
Another study looked at a trio of websites with combined pageviews of 768,230.
Those 768,230 pageviews resulted in a total of 1,287 clicks on the slider.
That’s a 0.17% clickthrough rate.4
- Multiple studies have confirmed the abysmal clickthrough rate of website sliders
- The average clickthrough rate across all industries is around 3.5%
- The average clickthrough rate for sliders is less than 1%.
#2 – Sliders make your website slower
Generally speaking, the more complicated your website becomes, the slower it will be.
Why does your website’s speed matter?
As it turns out, page speed is an official ranking factor that Google uses to determine search rankings. Simply put, if your page speed is poor, Google will penalize your website and your ranking will decrease.5
One of the primary duties of your website is to rank high in search engines. Using a website slider actively prevents that from happening.
And when it comes to SEO, the scourge of sliders extends beyond page speed.
To quote Search Engine Land: “In most cases, the headings in the slider were wrapped in an h1 tag. Basic SEO best practices state that there should only be one h1 tag per page, and it should appear before any other heading tag. The problem with using h1 or any heading tag in the carousel is that every time the slide changes, the h1 tag changes. A page with five slides in the carousel will have 5 h1 tags, which greatly devalues the keyword relevance.”6
Sliders have a negative effect on your site’s speed and SEO
That’s not all:
Poor page speed doesn’t only affect your site’s search engine rankings, it also frustrates your visitors.
This is crazy: If your website loads in 3 seconds instead of 2 seconds, 2X as many people will leave your site without visiting another page.7
1 extra second in load time equates to twice as high a bounce rate.
As if that’s not enough, mobile pages that are 1 second faster experience up to 27% increases in conversion rates.8
- Website sliders have a negative effect on your site’s speed and SEO
- The negative effect of a slider can lead to lower search rankings
- Slow page speed frustrates visitors to your website
- If your website loads in 3 seconds instead of 2 seconds, 2X as many people will leave your site without visiting another page
#3 – Sliders are ignored by website visitors
In 2013, Nielsen ran a fascinating study looking at website sliders.9
The study began like this…
A user was asked to answer the following question: “Does Siemens have any special deals on washing machines?”
Without much trouble, the user was able to navigate to the Siemens website.
Here’s where things get interesting…
At the top of the Siemens website in 98-point font was a monstrous promotion for a sale on washing machines – it was by far the largest section on the website.
But despite this, the user failed to find it because the panel auto-rotated instead of staying still.
To quote Nielsen, “After an extended visit to the website — including much time scrutinizing this homepage — the user gave up and assumed that Siemens didn’t have any special deals.”10
Sliders are often ignored because of “banner blindness”
How can you actually use this?
Nielsen’s conclusion from this study was that sliders are often ignored due to a term they used called “banner blindness.”
Simply put, users almost never look at anything that looks like an advertisement.11
Due to the fancy formatting and automatic rotation of website sliders, users often mistake them for ads and fully ignore them.
But here’s the kicker:
The real culprit of the website slider according to Nielsen is the automatic rotation.
Auto-forwarding causes many usability issues. It reduces accessibility. Users often don’t have enough time to read what’s on a slide before it rotates. And it’s just plain annoying for users to control.12
Simply stated, website sliders are annoying and easily ignored. They make poor first impressions.
The user from the Nielsen study says it best, “I didn’t have time to read it. It keeps flashing too quickly.”
- Due to their fancy formatting and automatic rotation, website sliders are often mistaken for ads
- Being mistaken for an ad online is disastrous; because of “banner blindness” users willfully ignore anything they believe to be an advertisement
- The auto-forwarding of sliders reduces their accessibility, makes slides difficult to read, and annoys users
Experts agree: sliders are disastrous
Don’t just take it from me.
Here’s a collection of quotes from leading web developers and conversion experts concerning sliders:
Sliders only exist because web designers love them. And because they make the life of the web team easy: they can give every department or product division a place on the homepage. And they don’t have to make choices. But it’s not your job to make your colleagues happy. It’s your job to make your visitors happy. And that’s the biggest problem with sliders: they don’t convert. Never did and never will. – Karl Gilis, Owner of AGConsult
Carousels are effective at being able to tell people in Marketing/Senior Management that their latest idea is now on the Home Page. They are next to useless for users and often “skipped” because they look like advertisements. – Lee Duddell, Customer Enablement at UserZoom
It’s extremely rare to see sliders work. You’re better off using static images and copy. – Peep Laja, Owner of ConversionXL
Sliders suck 99.8% of the time! We once did a test with a client where we changed their slider to a static image with 3 core benefits and lifted conversions by a nice amount. – Bryan Eisenberg, Author of Be Like Amazon
Sliders are absolutely evil and should be removed immediately. – Tim Ash, CEO at SiteTuners
Sliders please the owner of the site, but they deliver little to no value to the customers. – Avinash Kaushik, Digital Marketing Evangelist for Google
We have tested rotating offers many times and have found it to be a poor way of presenting home page content. Chris Goward, Wider Funnel
By now, I hope the overwhelming evidence against website sliders is clear.
Sliders don’t get clicked. Sliders hurt SEO. Sliders slow down your site. Sliders are ignored. Sliders are annoying to users.
Replace your website slider with this
Okay. Okay. Okay.
But if not a slider, then what?
Answer: The website homepage formula.
The website homepage formula is an 11-part framework. And it details the 11 necessary elements every website homepage needs.
To see the full website homepage formula breakdown, click here.