There, I said it. When designing a website, content sliders are very rarely the best course of action to take and I will explain why, but first a little explanation on Information Design.
What is Information Design?
Everything that goes on your website is essentially marketing messaging/imaging etc. Information design is choosing these marketing elements that are the most important and matching that importance to their prominence so that visitors who arrive at your site will understand your company as you would like them to.
Most likely one of the most important things on your site will be your primary marketing message and a call to action (what you want them to do). I won’t go into all of the detail here about how to form a great primary marketing message; suffice it to say that it should explain and differentiate your business.
What is Information Hierarchy?
Information is not always hierarchical, however, web design is usually hierarchical. A person can only look at one thing at a time and so that means that there is an order to what they look at. As a marketer, you want to control the order of what they look at, showing the most important items first and to put information is a logical order that promotes content consumption.
So, Why Do Sliders Actually Suck?
Reason 1: So, the biggest reason that sliders suck is because designers often use sliders as a replacement for hierarchy. This means that the most important information is on slide 1, the information to be viewed next on slide 2 etc.
This is crazy! No one sits through and waits for your slide show to finish, reading each slide sequentially. Life is going on around these people; there are kids and coworkers and other tabs. You have no idea what slide they will see first or how many they will see.
Reason 2: The second reason that sliders suck is that, in my opinion, they do not take advantage of SEO best practices. Most sliders are above the fold and consist only of images. This is the most prime location on your entire site, it should contain amazing chunks of digestible content (text & headlines) that can be broken up with images, not HUGE images that take over your entire homepage.
Reason 3: The last reason why sliders suck is that they move. There are many elements that can draw a person’s eye to a section of your page. They include: color, size, inconsistency and movement, to name a few. When a person is consuming content on your site each slide that moves draws the person’s eye, basically distracting them from what they were trying to read or look at. Now these elements can be used effectively to direct a user’s attention around a site but most of the time they don’t contain information that is worth movement.
When are Sliders Acceptable?
Sliders are acceptable when you are displaying interchangeable information. A t-shirt site is the perfect example of this; it would be acceptable for a site like threadless.com to show a slider with a popular t-shirt on each slide. Their CTA would be for a person to either buy that shirt or to start browsing shirts. No matter what slide a person sees they will see a popular t-shirt. Reading each slide is not required to understand the company or product. There are plenty of other great uses of sliders. There are also some sliders that display hierarchical information and do an ok job of it. Leave any sites with sliders that you love or hate in the comments.
Why are there so many Sliders out there?
The real answer to this question is templates. There are a bunch of developers out there that think that sliders are sexy. Then, they build a TON of website templates that include sliders, which leads to mass adoption. Then, new site owners feel like they need a slider too; after all every other site has one…and the vicious circle continues.