Kill your conversion killing carousel now, before further damage is done to your website ROI and revenue
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:
- Allow multiple messages designed for multiple personas to appear on the all-important above the fold screen real estate on the home page
- Provide a mix of messaging in one place, typically including Branding, Product-specific, and Thought-leadership
- 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%.
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.
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…
- Who you are
- What product or service you provide
- 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.
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.