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Website carousels

Learn why we do not support the use of carousels on websites.

Do you remember splash pages?

Let's go back in time to the Nineties and Noughties, when splash pages were all the rage.

Splash pages were single web pages designed to wow visitors to a website. They typically consisted of a large picture - often animated using Flash for extra pizzazz - with a "click here to enter our site" link.

Occasionally a client would ask why we did not offer splash pages, as so many other websites had them.

We researched and found out that:

Splash pages are bad for SEO

  • Heavy on graphics and with little or no text content, splash pages are difficult for search engine robots to evaluate and understand.
  • Search engine robots cannot interpret Flash animations.

Splash pages are not user friendly

  • An additional yet non-essential web page, splash pages act as a barrier between visitors and the website.
  • Even with a "skip animation" link, splash pages add an extra step to a visitor's journey before getting to useful content.
  • The lack of information gives new visitors a poor first impression.
  • Return visitors are annoyed to see the same splash page each time they visit the website.

We concluded that it was not in the interests of users to provide splash pages for Webpartner sites. Nowadays it is rare to see a splash page on a modern website.

Informative image: Should I Use a Carousel?What has this got to do with carousels?

Back to the present day, and for those of you wanting to get straight to the point of this article, please visit shouldiuseacarousel.com

At first glance, carousels seem to address two key issues:

  • How to fit a lot of content into a limited amount of home page 'real estate'.
  • Deciding what content is the most important.

Look around online and you'll spot carousels on all manner of websites. What started on a few 'trendy' sites has been picked up by others and now carousels seem to be everywhere... just like splash pages used to be. But are they any good?

Usability issues with carousels

Moving too quickly

Navigation issues

  • Carousel controls can be hard to find and vary from site to site, requiring visitors to learn how to use them, which can be a barrier.
  • There is no easy way to semantically/programatically link carousel controls with the content of each slide.
  • This in turn causes problems for visitors who use screen readers and/or navigate via their keyboard rather than with a mouse - especially where content suddenly disappears from focus in an auto-playing carousel.

Banner blindness

  • Screen tracking studies consistently show that people browsing the web tend to ignore anything that looks like an advert.
  • Content is ignored if a slide disappears too quickly - and if it's too slow visitors don't want to wait to see what's next.

What seems like a good way of promoting multiple key messages in a small amount of space ends up being a self-defeating element. And this is why we do not support the use of carousels on websites.

In the best interests of visitors, it's better for website editors to focus on what is the most important content and how to present it in a meaningful, simple, and accessible way.