Image Sliders: to Use or Not to Use?

You might have had the experience where (scrolling image) you were trying to read something (image rotate) on a website but (image flip) something kept distracting (wha’sdat!) your attention (eh?) on the page.

  • Is it a picture?
  • Is it an ad?

But more importantly,

  • Is it really more important than the reason you went to that website in the first place?

If you’re building a new website you have probably seen other sites insert image sliders (also known as carousels or slide shows), so you might feel like they add significant value to your website. Unfortunately, that is rarely the case.

Image Sliders

(Pixabay / StockSnap)

Don’t get me wrong, image sliders can be great for a limited number of fields – namely, real estate and artwork – but even these types of businesses should be careful as they incorporate an image slider.

If you use a carousel correctly, it can give website visitors an opportunity to see several different aspects of your company in a short amount of time. On the other hand, most people don’t stick around for that “short amount of time.”

Due to the nature of an image slider, the type and number of images you use could slow down your site, which might also frustrate your customers. Your customers have so many options at their fingertips that they won’t even pause to mourn your page once they decide to leave it for a website with a faster load time.

Image sliders for distracting your customers to the point that they abandon your website without becoming a lead or making a purchase, and are notorious for getting stuck and not being mobile-friendly. And with half of online traffic coming from mobile users, you can’t afford to lose any customers due to trying to over-impress them.

Like I said earlier, there are still some good aspects of using an image slider, so if you feel like one would benefit your site, there are some well-tested tricks for using one effectively.

Image Slider Tips

Limit to three images

Having more images than this can be overwhelming to your customers, so stick to your top three. Make sure that they mesh in such a way that they tell a story or stick to a central theme; otherwise, your site runs the risk of feeling disjointed and sporadic.

Do not auto-rotate

Remember that first paragraph? The auto-rotate capability seems like it would be a great way to share your products without your customer having to do any work, but more often than not, it’s just distracting. When something is moving on its own, your customers can get sidetracked from the reason they came to your site in the first place, which can lead to lower conversion rates. It’s also extremely annoying (and presumptive) to think that you know how quickly your customers read.  Unless you get really lucky, the auto-rotate option is bound to go too fast or too slow for most customers.  If you get it right for some, it’ll still be wrong for others.

Insert links to the images

People have gotten used to the idea that clicking on an image will take them to more information about the image, so make sure that you don’t disappoint. Be purposeful in your link placement to get the most out of your slider.

Keep the sliders consistent with your web design

Image carousels should stay within your website’s theme; otherwise, you run the risk of looking cluttered and disorganized. Keep the fonts and color palettes consistent with the rest of your design elements.

Monitor your slider

For SEO purposes, it’s in your best interest to monitor the number of click-throughs and conversions that come as a result of your slider. If you see a drop in customer activity after you add a slider, you should reconsider if it’s really worth it.

Keep it below the fold

An image carousel should be a supplementary aspect of your website – not the main event. When customers head to your site and see a slider taking up the top third of their screen, they can either get overwhelmed by the images, distracted by them to the point that they forget their original purpose, ruin your website’s page speed, or annoy customers that they have to scroll down to get the information they came for. The vast majority of the time, customers go to your site with a goal in mind, and they expect to complete their task in a relatively short amount of time so that they can get on with their lives.

While there isn’t necessarily a hard-and-fast rule as to whether you should use an image slider or not, generally it’s best to stay away from them. If you would like to include one, make sure that you take the time to think through your purpose and design it well following the tips above. This will help you keep your focus so that your customers can keep theirs.