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The Homepage Slider is DEAD! (Or, least, it should be)

Posted on September 12, 2016 by Jeff Pollard

For quite a number of years, the homepage slider has been a staple of a well-designed website. It’s almost as quintessential to 2000’s web design as apple pie is to America. Although, didn’t apple pie start out as a Dutch delicacy?

Either way, the idea of rotating images and messages on the homepage has been a design pattern (and quite a trendy one!) for many many years. But like with many things in the design and technology world, it’s often worth considering whether this is still the best method. After all, just because something is popular doesn’t mean that it is good. Platform shoes, for example. They sure were popular. But were they good?

So, let’s look at some reasons why having a homepage slider on your website may no longer be a great idea:

1. Too many messages too fast. Many websites try to cram a ton of information into the homepage slider. You’ve got to make sure you put your primary marketing message up there. And your very important upcoming event. And don’t forget to add your latest award or accolade that you received. By the time you’re done, you’ve created a slider with 4 or 5 rotating blocks of content. And you don’t want to rotate them too fast or people won’t have time to read each one. But, don’t rotate them too slowly or people will get bored and move on. The truth is, studies have shown that most website visitors rarely see anything beyond the first slide that is shown. So all of those other important messages are never seen by your visitors.

2. Users now understand how to scroll. I actually have trouble agreeing with this, but apparently there was a school of thought in the early days of the web that some people didn’t realize you could scroll vertically. And so many website designers wanted to put as much content “above the fold” as they could. A slider one the home page of the site gave them the ability to use this important screen real estate in a very efficient manner. Recent studies have shown that “the fold” is much less of an issue than previously thought.

In fact, since many sliders can be a bit slow to load (due to all of the image assets and javascript loading), some users will begin scrolling right past a still-loading slider before it even finishes loading, causing them to miss it completely.

3. They slow down your site. Homepage sliders, by nature, contain multiple large images and javascript code. Both of these things can significantly slow down your page load times. And as we know, speed can have a significant effect on your users’ experience, and can affect your search engine performance.

4. No one clicks them. Many studies have shown that the click-through rate on a homepage slider is not nearly as high as you may expect. And typically, the only slide that sees any click-through action is the first slide.

The fact is, the homepage slider was born in a different age. An age when the web wasn’t quite as evolved as it is today. An age when we didn’t have as clear of an understanding about how people use the web as we do today.

Homepage sliders only serve to frustrate website visitors.

So What Are Today’s Alternatives?

There are many alternatives that are increasing in popularity that can be a better choice than the venerable homepage slider:

1. A singular image/message. Since most people only view the first slide of a slider, why not focus your efforts on creating one singular, powerful message? It will allow your audience to focus more on that message without the distraction of things moving around or fading in/out.

2. Video backgrounds. Video backgrounds are becoming increasingly popular as studies have shown that visitors are more engaged in video content. However, proper care must be taken to ensure that the video content doesn’t slow down the page’s load time. I think time (and usability studies) will also tell us if video backgrounds are a great idea – or just another fad. For now, we think they’re pretty great.

3. User-friendly sliders. Ok, I know just spent all of those words above to tell you that the homepage slider is dead and now I’m telling you to use one. What I’m suggesting as an alternative is an element that I will refer to as a “responsible slider.” A responsible slider doesn’t automatically rotate on a timer and only changes when the user clicks something. Of course, this doesn’t solve some of the issues outlined above, but does provide a less frustrating experience for your website visitors.

These are just a handful of possible homepage slider replacements. I think it’s time that we began pushing website design forward and move on from the homepage slider. If you’d like to discuss with our team how we can help you modernize your website, we’d love to chat!

About the author:

Jeff Pollard

Partner, Director of Technology

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Jeff is one of Torx's founding partners and serves as the agency's Director of Technology. He built his first website back in 1996 and has never looked back. Jeff wears many hats at Torx: front-end designer and developer, server administrator, and resident Apple enthusiast.