Kill Conversion Killing Carousels Now

Kill your conversion killing carousel now, before further damage is done to your website ROI and revenue

Kill conversion killing website carousels nowKill conversion killing carousels now, because a carousel is one of the major reasons why your conversion is much weaker than it could be.

Website carousels or sliders were all the rage a few years ago. You almost couldn’t visit three sites without finding two that were using them.

What’s a carousel? It is the technology that allows a series of images to briefly appear on the home page, then rotate in order, being replaced by the next, and the next, after several seconds go by.

The theory behind using carousels was threefold:

  1. Allow multiple messages designed for multiple personas to appear on the all-important above the fold screen real estate on the home page
  2. Provide a mix of messaging in one place, typically including Branding, Product-specific, and Thought-leadership
  3. Placate internal stakeholders who demand their messaging be present on the home page

The Data is in, Carousels are Bad for Conversion

Sadly, carousels just don’t work. Not at all. Based on website audits, conversion data and usability testing I have been collecting over the past several years I can conclusively say most carousels are hurting conversion, some modestly, and many severely.

The reason carousels do not work is because the theory behind carousels is wrong. The theory is that home page visitors will hang around long enough to see each of the messages. In fact, the vast majority of website visitors will only spend a few precious seconds on a home page before either navigating into the site, or leaving it. They typically never see all the carousel images.

If a carousel has 5 images, each of which appears for 3 seconds, and allowing 1 second for the ‘sliding in’ and ‘sliding out’ transition effects, then for a visitor to see all 5 sliders it would require a total of 20 seconds (5 images X 4 seconds per image = 20 seconds total).

The problem is, website visitors do not actually stay nearly that long. Most sites are lucky if the majority of their visitors stay longer than 10 seconds.

But that is not the worst part, which is that even if they stay, often they will be more confused, not less, by the multiple messages displayed in the series of carousel images.

Going even further, many of the usability tests I conducted revealed that ‘banner blindness’ was occurring on the carousel itself. Meaning most of the study participants simply ignored the sliding or animating messages as they hunted for the information they were interested in. The proof is in the Click Through Rate of banner images, which is not good typically.

Carousel Click Through Rate below .1%

Among the hundreds of website audits I have conducted in the past several years, I have seen average Click Through Rates (CTRs) of less than .1% across thousands of carousel banner images. In fact, that rate is just as bad as the average CTR for banner ads as reported by Google, which currently is at .089%.

DoubleClick click through rates for display ads image from

Google DoubleClick Display Benchmarking Report, U.S., All Verticals, All Formats, Feb 2014-Oct 2010

 Length of Visit Data is the Nail in the Coffin for Carousels

The length of visit data from the hundreds of sites I’ve analyzed over the past several years is the nail in the coffin for carousels. The data is clear and damning to carousel believers that maintain visitors will hang around long enough to view each image. In fact, as the data clearly shows, they don’t.

The average length of visit for most sites is typically under 10 seconds for the vast majority of visitors. This means that most visitors are in fact not hanging around to watch each of the carousel images advance across the home page, and are either abandoning the site immediately or moving on without the opportunity of ever being exposed to the messages in the carousel.

The image below demonstrates an average length of visit report, in this case for a client of mine. Almost all length of visit reports I have seen replicate this data fairly closely. Note that the majority of site visits are less than 10 seconds.

Visit Duration of a typical website image from

The vast majority of length of visits for most websites is well under 10 seconds

Carousels Often Fail the 5 Second Test

As I wrote about in my article on 5 second tests, a home page must communicate three critical pieces of information in 5 seconds, else losing the website visitor potentially forever. They are…

  1. Who you are
  2. What product or service you provide
  3. Why your visitor should care, how can you help them?

Carousel images are notoriously bad at passing the 5 second test. This is because although some images may be on topic, and may help the visitor understand who you are, what you do and why they should care, many other carousel images don’t. The images that fail typically counter-act any benefit derived by the images that succeed in communicating with the target audience. And often, none of the images pass the 5 second test.

Below are results of a 5 second test of two carousel images from an Ecommerce website that sells watches. One image was fairly on-point, and thus scored fairly well. The other image caused great confusion to the visitors, and thus completely failed the 5 second test.

5 second test results from a typical website carousel image from

A 5 second test can reveal which images in a carousel are not working and thus causing poor conversion

The results of the above 5 second test are very typical for the vast majority of sites I have tested. Typically out of five images, only one or two actually do the job of communicating fairly effectively. And the other three or four images are so bad at communicating that they more than counter any slight benefit gained from the good carousel images.

Conversion Improves When Carousels are Killed

Among the hundreds of website audits I have completed in which carousels were causing poor conversion, when my clients killed their carousel, they typically increased their conversion significantly.

The message is clear, kill you carousel before it kills your website!

Conclusion: Kill Conversion Killing Carousels Now!

Kill your conversion killing carousels now, before more damage is done to your website ROI and revenue. The good news is among over 50 websites I sampled, slightly less than a quarter are still using carousels, with the vast majority either removing them entirely, or using a modified version where the carousel is below the main home page image and message.

By removing your carousel and replacing it with content that passes the 5 second test, you will be better off converting those all important website visitors, which will improve your website ROI and revenue.

Posted in Conversion Optimization, Design, Methodology | Tagged , | Leave a comment

100 Must Read UX Books

100 Must-read books on analytics, design, information architecture, usability and of course UX

Bookmark this page, now! You’ll want to refer to it again and again. And be sure to share it with your cool UX friends too! These are the books that you must read if you want to know the who, what, where, why, when and how of User Experience. And before you ask, no, you don’t have to read them all. Just use this handy-dandy list to refer to books on the subject of interest. I curated this list from my extensive library and interest in the subjects, and no, I have not read every single one of these either, but it would be a great use of time!

That’s it, enjoy!


Web Analytics 2.0: The Art of Online Accountability and Science of Customer Centricity by Avinash Kaushik

Web Analytics: An Hour a Day by Avinash Kaushik

Advanced Web Metrics with Google Analytics by Brian Clifton

Landing Page Optimization: The Definitive Guide to Testing and Tuning for Conversions by Tim Ash

Google Analytics by Justin Cutroni

Lean Analytics: Use Data to Build a Better Startup Faster by Alistair Croll

Practical Web Analytics for User Experience: How Analytics Can Help You Understand Your Users by Michael Beasley

Building a Digital Analytics Organization: Create Value by Integrating Analytical Processes, Technology, and People into Business Operations by Judah Phillips

Data Science for Business: What you need to know about data mining and data-analytic thinking by Foster Provost

Ecommerce and Beyond: 9 Steps to Skyrocket Your Sales Without a Degree in Rocket Science by Rodolfo Melogli


100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People by Susan Weinschenk

The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition by Don Norman

Emotional Design: Why We Love (or Hate) Everyday Things by Don Norman

Experience Design: A Framework for Integrating Brand, Experience, and Value by Patrick Newbery

Information Dashboard Design: Displaying Data for At-a-Glance Monitoring by Stephen Few

Design for Hackers: Reverse Engineering Beauty by David Kadavy

Data Driven Design: How Today’s Product Designer Approaches User Experience to Create Radically Innovative Digital Products by Phillip A. Harris

Universal Principles of Design, Revised and Updated by Jill Butler (Author), Kritina Holden (Author), William Lidwell (Author)

Designing with the Mind in Mind: Simple Guide to Understanding User Interface Design Rules by Jeff Johnson

The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity by Alan Cooper

Interdisciplinary Interaction Design by James Pannafino

Essential Mobile Interaction Design: Perfecting Interface Design in Mobile Apps by Cameron Banga (Author), Josh Weinhold (Author)

About Face 3: The Essentials of Interaction Design by Alan Cooper (Author), Robert Reimann (Author), David Cronin (Author)

Designing Interactions by Bill Moggridge

Android Design Patterns: Interaction Design Solutions for Developers by Greg Nudelman

Universal Methods of Design: 100 Ways to Research Complex Problems, Develop Innovative Ideas, and Design Effective Solutions Hardcover by Bella Martin (Author), Bruce Hanington (Author)

Technical Communication by Mike Markel

User Experience Design 38 Success Secrets by Dale Salas

Basics Interactive Design: Interface Design: An introduction to visual communication in UI design by David Wood

UI is Communication: How to Design Intuitive, User Centered Interfaces by Focusing on Effective Communication by Everett N. McKay

Adventures in Experience Design (Web Design Courses) by Carolyn Chandler (Author), Anna van Slee (Author)

Interface Design for Learning: Design Strategies for Learning Experiences by Dorian Peters

The Laws of Simplicity (Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life) by John Maeda

Set Phasers on Stun: And Other True Tales of Design, Technology, and Human Error by S. M. Casey (Author), Steven Casey (Author)

Envisioning Information by Edward R. Tufte

The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward R. Tufte

Letting Go of the Words, Second Edition: Writing Web Content that Works by Janice (Ginny) Redish

Building Websites All-in-One For Dummies by David Karlins (Author), Doug Sahlin (Author)

Designing Interfaces by Jenifer Tidwell

Evil by Design: Interaction Design to Lead Us into Temptation by Chris Nodder

A Web for Everyone: Designing Accessible User Experiences by Sarah Horton (Author), Whitney Quesenbery (Author), Aaron Gustafson (Foreword)

Digital Design Essentials: 100 Ways to Design Better Desktop, Web, and Mobile Interfaces by Rajesh Lal


Information Architecture for the World Wide Web: Designing Large-Scale Web Sites, 3rd Edition by Peter Morville (Author), Louis Rosenfeld (Author)

Information Architecture: Blueprints for the Web (2nd Edition) by Christina Wodtke (Author), Austin Govella (Author)

Pervasive Information Architecture: Designing Cross-Channel User Experiences by Andrea Resmini (Author), Luca Rosati (Author)

The Art of Enterprise Information Architecture: A Systems-Based Approach for Unlocking Business Insight by Mario Godinez (Author), Eberhard Hechler (Author), Klaus Koenig (Author), Steve Lockwood (Author), Martin Oberhofer (Author), Michael Schroeck (Author)

Designing Information: Human Factors and Common Sense in Information Design by Joel Katz

Designing the Search Experience: The Information Architecture of Discovery by Tony Russell-Rose (Author), Tyler Tate (Author)

Pragmatic Enterprise Architecture: Strategies to Transform Information Systems in the Era of Big Data by James Luisi


Lean UX: Applying Lean Principles to Improve User Experience by by Jeff Gothelf (Author), Josh Seiden (Editor)

Undercover User Experience Design by Cennydd Bowles (Author), James Box (Author)

The Elements of User Experience: User-Centered Design for the Web and Beyond (2nd Edition) by Jesse James Garrett

The UX Book: Process and Guidelines for Ensuring a Quality User Experience by Rex Hartson (Author), Pardha Pyla (Author)

UX for Lean Startups: Faster, Smarter User Experience Research and Design by Laura Klein

Seductive Interaction Design: Creating Playful, Fun, and Effective User Experiences by Stephen P. Anderson

Hooked: A Guide to Building Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal (Author), Ryan Hoover (Contributor)

A Project Guide to UX Design: For user experience designers in the field or in the making (2nd Edition) by Russ Unger (Author), Carolyn Chandler (Author)

Mobile First by Luke Wroblewski

The Modern Web: Multi-Device Web Development with HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript by Peter Gasston

Responsive Web Design with HTML5 and CSS3 by Ben Frain

Smashing UX Design: Foundations for Designing Online User Experiences by Jesmond Allen (Author), James Chudley (Author)

Storytelling for User Experience by Whitney Quesenbery (Author), Kevin Brooks (Author)

The Tao of User Experience by Robert Hoekman Jr

Get Agile!: Scrum for UX, Design & Development by Pieter Jongerius (Author), Anna Offermans (Contributor), Anton Vanhoucke (Contributor), Patrick Sanwikarja (Contributor), Jeroen van Geel (Contributor)

UX/UI Bibliography by Safari Content Team (Author)

Communicating the User Experience: A Practical Guide for Creating Useful UX Documentation by Richard Caddick (Author), Steve Cable (Author)

The User Experience Team of One: A Research and Design Survival Guide by Leah Buley

Sketching User Experiences: The Workbook by Saul Greenberg (Author), Sheelagh Carpendale (Author), Nicolai Marquardt (Author), Bill Buxton (Author)

User Experience Management: Essential Skills for Leading Effective UX Teams by Arnie Lund

UX Design Process (Smashing eBook Series) by Smashing Magazine

Mobile User Experience: Patterns to Make Sense of it All by Adrian Mendoza

Designing Multi-Device Experiences: An Ecosystem Approach to User Experiences across Devices by Michal Levin

Institutionalization of UX: A Step-by-Step Guide to a User Experience Practice by Eric Schaffer (Author), Apala Lahiri (Author)


Don’t Make Me Think Revisited by Steve Krug

Handbook of Usability Testing by Jeffrey Rubin (Author), Dana Chisnell (Author), Jared Spool (Foreword)

Observing the User Experience, Second Edition: A Practitioner’s Guide to User Research by Elizabeth Goodman (Author), Mike Kuniavsky (Author), Andrea Moed (Author)

Usable Usability: Simple Steps for Making Stuff Better by Eric Reiss

Usability Testing Essentials: Ready, Set…Test! by Carol M. Barnum

Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems by Steve Krug

Mobile Usability by Jakob Nielsen (Author), Raluca Budiu (Author)

Eye Tracking the User Experience: A Practical Guide to Research by Aga Bojko

Eye Tracking in User Experience Design by Jennifer Romano Bergstrom (Author), Andrew Schall (Author)

Measuring the User Experience, Second Edition: Collecting, Analyzing, and Presenting Usability Metrics by William Albert (Author), Thomas Tullis (Author)

Interviewing Users: How to Uncover Compelling Insights by Steve Portigal

Quantifying the User Experience: Practical Statistics for User Research by Jeff Sauro (Author), James R Lewis (Author)

The UX Five-Second Rules: Guidelines for User Experience Design’s Simplest Testing Technique by Paul Doncaster

Handbook of Usability Testing: How to Plan, Design, and Conduct Effective Tests by Jeffrey Rubin (Author), Dana Chisnell (Author), Jared Spool (Foreword)

A Field Guide To Usability Testing (Smashing eBook Series) by Smashing Magazine

NISTIR 7742: Customized Common Industry Formal Template for Electronic Health Record Usability Testing by U.S. Department of Commerce

Moderating Usability Tests: Principles and Practices for Interacting by Joseph S. Dumas (Author), Beth A. Loring (Author)

Prioritizing Web Usability Jakob Nielsen (Author), Hoa Loranger (Author)

A Step-by-Step Guide to Usability Testing by Peter Mitchell

It’s Our Research: Getting Stakeholder Buy-in for User Experience Research Projects by Tomer Sharon

Foundations of Software Testing by Cem Kaner (Author), Rebecca L Fiedler (Author)

The Moderator’s Survival Guide: Handling Common, Tricky, and Sticky Situations in User Research by Donna Tedesco (Author), Fiona Tranquada (Author)

Current Trends in Eye Tracking Research by Mike Horsley (Editor), Natasha Toon (Editor), Bruce Knight (Editor), Ronan Reilly (Editor)

Beyond the Usability Lab: Conducting Large-scale Online User Experience Studies by William Albert (Author), Thomas Tullis (Author), Donna Tedesco (Author)

Survey Research Methods (Applied Social Research Methods) by Floyd J. Fowler

A Practical Guide to the System Usability Scale: Background, Benchmarks & Best Practices by Jeff Sauro

Visual Usability: Principles and Practices for Designing Digital Applications by Tania Schlatter (Author), Deborah Levinson (Author)

Conclusion: 100 Must-read UX Books

100 Must-read UX books is a list I hope you’ll find helpful, and that you’ll refer to from time to time. There is some amazing content in these books, so feel free to use them to improve your skills, no matter whether for analytics, design, information architecture, usability or just UX in general. Enjoy!

And if I left off one of YOUR favorite books on one of these topics PLEASE add a comment with your fav, thanks!

Note: For some of these links I receive a small, modest, minimal reimbursement if you, dear reader, happen to click on and purchase said book, but let’s be real here for a second, the whopping 5, 10 or 40 cents or so that I receive for that is hardly worth mentioning, but I’m just letting you know about it so we all know what’s going on, because being informed is so very cool, and in reality, the money is so small that I wouldn’t even be able to afford a Tall (by the way, what’s up with labeling your smallest cup of coffee “Tall” I mean, really, that’s pretty much false advertising, it’s not tall at all, frankly it should be called “Short” which is much more accurate because it absolutely is the smallest of the three sizes, “Tall” “Venti” and “Grande,” but whatever, I think you’ll agree with me on that one, anyway where was I, oh yeah) I couldn’t even afford a “tall” cup of coffee from my nearest coffee place, and well, I suppose if you and all your friends purchased books then just perhaps I could get a “tall” cup of coffee, but actually wouldn’t because the cost of the gas in my car to drive over to my nearest coffee place would more than make up for the minor amount I received and actually cause me to go cash negative, which explains precisely why I’m not one of those multi-gazillion dollar guys like Warren Buffett, although he apparently eats at McDonalds because he says he likes the food but I suspect the actual reason is he’s ultra tight with his money which is why he’s a mega gazillionaire flying around in Lear jets and I’m driving around town to get a small, er, “Tall” cup of coffee in my 14 year old car that’s had the “check engine” light on but I’m driving it anyway not because I’m cheap but because the money to fix it is just not in my account at this particular juncture, not that it’s bad to have an old car, but I’m just sayin that really I could probably have been doing much better in life if I had taken my mom and dads advice and got into law school and became a lawyer instead of spending my time creating a list of 100 UX books that if I’m really lucky will help you, your friends and just maybe the world in some very small way better itself from a UX standpoint and maybe, just maybe will add a couple of cents to my piggy bank so I can eventually go out and get a “Tall” coffee, and I’ll dream big here and just put it out there to the universe that someday it’ll be enough money to go get my car’s check engine light checked, or, and this is a REALLY crazy thought but hey the power of the law of attraction and all that but to actually get enough money to buy a new used car so I don’t even have to deal with the stupid check engine light at all, and enjoy driving to the coffee place in a better car with no check engine light glaring at me causing me to feel guilty every time I turn the car on when I want to go purchase a “Tall” coffee and have a couple of cents left over to give the guy behind the counter a tip, even though I tip too heavy and could almost have bought another “Tall” coffee with the amount of the tip, which is probably, no strike that, exactly why I don’t have a gazillion dollars like Warren Buffett, and boy, don’t even get me started on “Tall” coffees, just enjoy the list of 100 UX books and if you buy a book then that’s cool, you’ll enjoy the book, the author will get a small reimbursement and I’ll get a couple of cents to someday buy a Tall Short coffee, and if you read through all of this then you are REALLY a hard core UX freak and I salute you my friend. Enjoy the list. Thanks.

Posted in Books, Design, Information Architecture, User Centered Design, User Experience, UX | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Content Marketing in the Age of UX

Content Marketing in the Age of UX and the 7 principles to apply to improve performance

Winning in the content marketing game in this new age of UX means knowing how to apply the 7 user experience best practices principles to your communications, here’s how.

Content marketing in the age of UX from

The winning formula for content marketing in this age of UX requires marketers to understand and apply the 7 user experience principles to optimize communications, improve conversion and successfully engage the audience. By doing so, marketing teams can ensure the communications that are so critical to their business success are efficient, effective and engaging. And that ultimately leads to marketing and thus revenue success.

Content marketing is a hot topic these days, because for marketing purposes it defines a better way to communicate and engage with prospects and customers.

Some naysayers may question the entire topic, wondering aloud;

Definition of Content Marketing

For you UX fans who are wondering what content marketing is, the definition on Wikipedia states:

“Content marketing is any marketing format that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire customers. This information can be presented in a variety of formats, including news, video, white papers, e-books, infographics, case studies, how-to guides, question and answer articles, photos, etc.

Content marketing is focused not on selling, but on communicating with customers and prospects.”

Ahem. That last line may not sit well with executives and the C-Suite, who I’m pretty sure are thinking they are absolutely paying their marketing team to help generate sales and revenue. But that’s a whole other blog post.

“Content Marketing” may be a hot topic now, with some marketers believing it to be new concept. But the truth is content marketing has been around for just about as long as we humans have been around.

A case in point is the infographic (they called it a political cartoon back in the day) that Benjamin Franklin published in his Pennsylvania Gazette in May, 1754.

Join or Die infographic created by Benjamin Franklin image from

Join or Die is a good example of an early content marketing infographic or political cartoon as it was known

“Join, or Die” was a brilliant graphic targeting the independent colonies and suggesting to them that they join forces to fight the French and Indians that threatened the colonists. The ‘information’ part of this infographic is the pieces of the snake representing the colonies. The message was clear, an organization (in this case the fledgling American colonies) cannot live as separate elements, but must be whole to survive. A highly effective content marketing piece that is just as effective at communicating today as it was in the 1750s.

Interestingly, it was repurposed years later as a popular symbol for the opposition of British rule during the American Revolution, which was an early use of a content repurposing strategy (sorry again content marketers, that concept has been around a long time too).

But content marketing IS an important strategy for engaging with prospects and customers. By providing valuable content that is NOT directly calling for a purchase, it has both marketing and UX benefits that are far reaching and include…

  • Engages target audience well before the buyer consideration phase
  • Reinforces the quality of the Brand
  • Provides rich content for SEO and inbound marketing purposes
  • Improves the human condition by adding value and knowledge

7 Content Marketing Principles and UX:

By applying the 7 UX principles as part of a content marketing strategy, smart marketers will benefit from the optimized content and communications that result. As I mentioned in the article how to conduct a usability review, there are important UX principles that can be analyzed specifically to optimize the usability and conversion of a website. What works for websites works equally well for marketing content. Thus, applying one, several or all of the following 7 UX principles can significantly improve content marketing results:

  1. Attractive: UX practitioners and marketers understand that content must be attractive, else risk losing the audience before they ever engage with the information. Content marketing takes information and wraps it into attractive packaging, UX teams use design best practices to ensure the experience and thus packaging is attractive.
  2. Stimulating: Content must be stimulating if it is going to be consumed. Boring information is, well, boring, and thus ineffective. UX best practices identify ways to incorporate value, motivation and incitement to drive engagement. Even the lowly white paper can be made more stimulating with simple additions of charts, graphs, callouts and the like.
  3. Novelty: As humans, our attention is captured by ‘new’ ‘different’ and ‘unusual.’ Good marketers and UX practitioners incorporate this fact into the content they produce. Information presented in new ways works very effectively toward capturing and holding attention. As an example, this is why infographics work so well as a content marketing tool. Infographics take existing information and wrap it into a novel and unique format that most of us find hard to resist.
  4. Efficiency: The core purpose of content marketing is to provide an efficient method for prospects and customers to find and consume information. UX teams live and die by efficiency, it is the core of their mantra. Marketing communications that are highly efficient at communicating will always provide better results than those that don’t. Remember that complexity is the enemy of good communications.
  5. Perspicuity: Clarity or transparency is another critical element of content marketing and UX. How understandable, easy to learn and clear content marketing communications are directly impact their usability, and adoption. UX best practices call for decreasing ambiguity and clarifying the experience whenever and wherever possible. The over use of jargon, abbreviations or company specific terms falls into this bucket. Keeping content marketing clean means keeping content marketing clear and transparent.
  6. Dependable:  The interesting thing about content marketing is it must communicate consistently across many mediums and over time. One-off ads are easy, dependable content marketing pieces must maintain their style, theme and vision across videos, articles, infographics, white papers and much more, and must reflect consistent Brand and tonality of voice throughout. UX best practices focus on creating dependable and consistent user experiences, which helps reinforce a positive user experience and satisfied users.
  7. Satisfying: A major component of good content marketing and UX is the ability of the content to satisfy the consumer. A great headline that stimulates a response to visit the content won’t matter if the content does not satisfy the reader and their expectations. But satisfaction implies something deeper; it implies a connection between the audience and the content. That connection can only come from identifying with and being connected to the audience and what they care about.

7 Winning Content Marketing Principles in the Age of UX

By evaluating content marketing strategies and tactics against these seven UX principles a marketer can ensure the communication will be as effective as possible. Given the ever increasing adoption and utilization of UX best practices in products and services, it makes sense for Marketers to utilize these 7 UX principles as a strategic tool to elevate their communications from good to great, and improve results.

Posted in Conversion Optimization, Methodology, User Centered Design, User Experience | Tagged , | Leave a comment