What is a Carousel Banner
When it comes to the topic of carousel banners, there can be some confusion. Carousel banners often go by a few different names, such as, “sliders” or “rotating banners”. These three terms are all recognized in the design community as relatively the same thing, which means they are able to be used interchangeably. There are a few different types of carousel banners, but ultimately there are two common types that people like to use on their sites; static image carousels and auto-rotating image carousels. Static image carousels consist of multiple slides of content that need to be clicked through manually by the user, whereas auto-rotating image carousels will automatically cycle through images without the user needing to do it manually. Although carousel banners sound like they would be a great addition to your site, they are actually doing more harm than good.
Studies have shown that only 1% of site visitors interact with static image carousels. Since this type of carousel banner requires action from the user to click through the slides, most of them will not bother with it. Most of the clicks from that 1% are on the first slide that shows when you land on the site, which means the rest of the slides most likely will not ever be seen by that user. The auto-rotating carousel numbers are not much better. Yes, they might receive a bit more attention from users, but again, the first slide is going to be the most dominating of all the slides, receiving 40% of clicks from users. Again, this means that the rest of the slides most likely will not ever be interacted with by that user. These studies show that the click-through rate (CTR) of carousel banners is incredibly low.
Why we do NOT Recommend Carousel Banners
There are several reasons as to why carousel banners do not work. Here is a run down of just a few of those reasons.
As we all know, sites can be continuously flooded with banner advertisements, especially sites that are informational. Banner ads are never appealing to users, so they will most likely go ahead and try to close them as quickly as possible. These banner ads cause the user to overlook the intentional carousel banner on your site because they are either viewing it as another banner ad or they are just choosing to ignore it altogether. Users just want to find what they are looking for, so they can be in and out of your site as quickly as possible.
Loss of Control
When users are browsing the web, they want to feel like they are the ones in control since it is their own user experience. When you have an auto-rotating image carousel on a site that rotates every three to five seconds, users will start to feel like they are no longer in control of their user experience. Sometimes auto-rotating image carousels are set to slide through pretty fast, therefore making it hard for the user to interact with them if they are interested in a particular slide. By using an auto-rotating image carousel, you run the risk of the user only seeing 1 out of X amount of slides, which is poor for marketing. Whereas with one singular banner, you have more security knowing that your message was understood and received by the user. The user’s loss of control in their user experience can be frustrating, especially for those who might have difficulty with motor skills, which then turns into an accessibility issue.
Poor Readability and User Experience
As mentioned above, loss of control can quickly deter a user from your site. Poor readability and user experience can also contribute to this loss of control. When auto-rotating image carousels are set to rotate quickly, every three to five seconds, the readability for those slides decreases drastically. If a slide is only up for three to five seconds, it can be hard for users to even obtain the information that is being shown to them at that moment, which contributes to a poor user experience and poor marketing. Quick moving carousel banners can also be especially frustrating if there is a call-to-action (CTA) button or specific imagery. Carousel banner imagery and media can increase the load time for all of the graphic elements on your site, which can cause concern with Google’s core web vitals and mobile experiences. This can quickly turn into an accessibility issue if your user is vision-impared or browsing your site on a mobile device.
The reasons listed above all contribute to carousel banner accessibility issues. Carousel banners can most definitely be accessible if done properly, but when we take into consideration the arguments against using them, we need to ask ourselves if we should even consider putting them on sites. We previously mentioned that carousel banners can have several accessibility issues that contribute to a poor user experience for those who are vision impared and those who have difficulty with motor skills. While carousel banners might seem appealing, it is important to keep in mind that your site should be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to avoid lawsuits and penalties.
Carousel Banner Alternatives
Since you now know why carousel banners are extremely ineffective, here are a few alternatives to consider using for your site instead.
- Top products or content
- Your brand’s value proposition
- Background video with player controls
Carousel banners sound like they would be a great addition to your site, but they are actually doing more harm than good. While carousel banners might seem good to show various amounts of content in one place, they ultimately hurt your conversion rate and your users’ experience. Instead, we recommend that you explore the carousel banner alternatives mentioned above to improve your conversion rate and your users’ experience.