Automatic ecommerce slider: forget about it. We tell you why and give you alternatives

Automatic image sliders are damaging. Don’t use them. Any expert you’ll ask will say the same thing, and this is what all case studies and analytics will shout with their results.



Sliders may be aesthetic – nobody denies that. Many people spend serious amounts of working hours with making the carefully designed slides change appropriately at the top of their websites and online stores. The problem is that the more they work on it, the more damage they do to themselves.

The biggest problem is that using large sized automatic sliders is even more damaging in an online shop than it is on other sites.

Because it kills your conversion.

Let’s go through in detail why. This is what you can read about later on:

 

  • Let’s start at the beginning: what’s a carousel and what’s a slider?
  • Why do designers like sliders?
  • In a nutshell: why not to use sliders (ever)?
  • What do the experts say?
  • What do the professionals and the analytics say about automatic sliders?
    • Fragments of 1 percent
    • It’s annoying because you can’t control it
    • Many people miss them and that’s frustrating
    • It’s also problematic on mobile
    • It slows down your website
    • What does it say about you if you use sliders?
    • Automatic sliders are enemies of content and SEO
  • If it’s absolutely necessary for you to use sliders…
    • You want to place CTAs on the slides?
  • Some alternatives
    • Static image with CTA
    • Registration form
    • Video instead of slides
  • Replacing sliders: great solutions for Magento stores
  • Let’s sum it up

 

Let’s start at the beginning: what’s a carousel and what’s a slider?

 

Carousel: is applied for the navigation solutions, where you can see the same images at the top of a website “go around”, replacing one another. Sliders or slide shows are also used, they refer to practically the same solution.

Carousel is a spectacular solution, but it’s outdated – we’re going to talk a lot about why that is, so that’s all for the time being: this solution is not effective in personalizing, it doesn’t reach visitors adequately, and as a consequence, it damages user experience and SEO.

Nevertheless, sliders have still been very popular in the last few years among designers and less competent webmasters. And that’s exactly why this article is important: we are going to describe in detail why their use is harmful, why both users and algorithms react to them negatively.

And even if you are using slide shows in your ecommerce store at the moment, we hope that by the time you get to the end of this article, you will remove them from there and you will replace them with something much more effective.

 

Why do graphic designers like sliders?

 

There are several reasons for that – and yes, it’s mostly the designers, having no experience at all in UX (user experience), who promote their use, while conversion optimization experts would most willingly erase even the memory of the entire practice.

 

  • It shows more in a smaller area. Sliders are ideal tools for maximizing visual elements: that’s how you show several things simultaneously. Why shouldn’t you place 5 great illustrations in one place where only 1 would fit anyway?
  • It attracts attention – this can also be a problem. It goes without saying that moving elements capture people’s attention, that’s how our brain is programmed. If you immediately notice on an otherwise static website when the image changes on the slider, that proves nothing more than that our ancestors were capable of effectively spotting the predators around them. We will soon write also in detail about why this may be problematic: it explains enough that this kind of attention raising method quickly becomes too much, and it falls victim to banner blindness.
  • Sliders are many times used in order to increase the conversion rate. This train of thoughts is wrong, but its basis is that the more offers you show the visitors, the more likely it is that in the end something is presented to them that they will actually like. For this very reason most sliders are clickable, they are present on the site practically as CTAs replacing each other.

 

tips Tip: Lee Duddell, founder of WhatUsersDo goes as far as saying that a carousel is not good for anything else but to show the marketing manager that his latest idea has been built in the main page and that he can be satisfied with that.

Fortunately, the statement according to which sliders are effective, can be disproved by a great deal of case studies: that’s exactly the reason why professionals have given up their use long ago, no matter how attractive they consider them to be.

 

In a nutshell: why not to use automatic ecommerce sliders (ever)?

 

carousel-in-action

 

Being the operator of an ecommerce store, your obvious goal is to realize a higher conversion rate among the customers arriving to your pages. So the first thing that you should know is that according to the case studies, less than 1 percent clicks on sliders.

The reason for this is mainly that most people simply ignore them. Sliders represent a continuously moving element in your field of vision, that shows offers and pieces of content the majority of which are uninteresting to you.

If something is not interesting to you, if you are not the target audience, and if it’s not even remarkably creative, you just simply don’t pay attention to it. This is exactly what brought about the “fall of banners”, and that’s why traditional advertising is gradually replaced by content marketing that works with segmentation and personalization.

When was the last time that you remembered a banner on any page – and not in the negative sense? When did it raise your attention in an actually relevant way (and it didn’t simply fill the whole webpage in order to make sure that you notice it)?

Obviously, your visitors will click in case you show them something interesting – but if you show them five to ten slides of which at most one is interesting to them, there’s a very slight chance that they will click.

 

What do the experts say?

 

We will support with data and arguments why you shouldn’t use sliders, but first, let’s see what the experts in the industry say. It’s best if we directly quote some words from them.

"I think sliders are interesting but somewhat problematic. The biggest problem I see is that if visitors are bouncing from the page in a second or two, they will never see the other options on the slider. If you use a slider for navigation, be sure the same choices are visible in static form, too. I think sliders work best for portfolio displays where several large, strong images can be displayed in the same space without impeding the visitor’s ability to navigate or determine what other content is on the site."Roger Dooley, author of Brainfluence and owner of Neurosciencemarketing.com

 

"We seldom use sliders. A slider is an “involuntary autoscroll.” It’s like the webpage grabs the user’s mouse and starts scrolling around the page without the user’s permission. And we, as designers, lose control of what the user sees. If the user scrolls down the page, they may completely miss some of the panels of the slider."Karl Blanks, co-founder of Conversion Rate Experts

 

"Sliders are absolutely evil and should be removed immediately."Tim Ash, author of Landing Page Optimization

 

After these strong opinions you are definitely curious about the different pieces of evidence…

 

What do the professionals and the analytics say about sliders?

 

carousel-effectiveness

 

The reason why online marketing has a great advantage over traditional marketing communications right from the beginning, is that everything can be superbly measured. Thanks to analytics you can make great case studies, analyses about how the visitors react to the modifications, you can also run A/B tests examining efficiency, and so on.

It goes without saying that a lot of case studies have already dealt also with the effectiveness of sliders, slide shows, since they are still so popular.

It’s worth mentioning at this point that it’s rare that similar analyses bring consistent results. However, in case of sliders, all existing case studies are in practically complete agreement.

 

Fragments of 1 percent

 

According to a study from 2013, approximately 1% of the visitors click on any of the slides at all. And this slide is the first one in 84% of the cases – minimal attention is paid to all the other ones, they raise the attention of only an extremely small fragment of visitors.

It may already be worthwhile for you asking the following question at this point: will you cover the part of your online shop above the fold – which is one of the most valuable positions – with a tool that most of your visitors will never click on? Or, you would rather put something else there, like for example a personalized offer or the advertisement of your most popular product?

 

Automatic sliders and carousels are annoying because you can’t control them

 

Nielsen also examined what’s the average user’s attitude towards these slide shows and they came to very interesting conclusions – these are reliable because they work with large samples very thoroughly, paying attention to the details as well.  

One of their main conclusions is that because of banner blindness, most people actually simply ignore sliders.

And this is not even the biggest problem.

Because those who notice them, find them extremely annoying.

 

The reason for that is simple: Modern web design places great emphasis on providing the most comfortable interface possible. User experience (UX) is incredibly important: if the users cannot use your website or ecommerce store comfortably, they will just look for another that pleases them more.

 

Yet sliders are not at all compatible with such intuitive interfaces: that’s because they are moving by themselves. The users have no power over them, they can’t control their movement and this automation creates the feeling of powerlessness – which means that sliders will have the exact opposite effect that you wanted.

SearchEngineLand comes up with even more depressing data:The proportion of the users clicking on any of the slides varies between 0.1 and 0.6% according to them.

 

With every slide you have less and less chance of getting the attention of the users, and it’s easy to see why: your visitors will not keep on waiting at the top of your page while 5, 10 or even more slides appear after one another, until the offer suitable for them appears.

They will bounce off instead, since they don’t find straight away what they are looking for (because the first slide is about an offer that’s not for them), or because they start using your site actively, they search, scroll down, and this way they may never come across even the second slide.

Thus you have worked unnecessarily with the elaboration of all these, and with putting various CTAs on them, which would probably work perfectly at other places and in a different environment.

In case you were curious about further data, jump over to Orbit Media Studios: they gathered a great deal of information on the subject – and of course the results of all studies are similar.

 

Many people miss them and that’s frustrating

 

It’s also a problem that slides sometimes move too fast. Even if they show exactly what a given visitor is looking for, there still won’t be any clicks as a result of that – even though you put it on the top of the page with a giant font size and illustration.

 

Who can this be problematic for?

  • Those who are less nimble, who are less proficient in using the internet, or who are physically disabled.
  • Those, who don’t read so fast: no matter if you show them the right offer for a few seconds, they might not even realize that, because they don’t have a chance to read it.
  • For the ones who are not native speakers, who also process the information more slowly.

 

And in addition to all that, it’s certainly a problem what we already saw with the previous example: if you present your offer in the form of a slide show, the chance of anyone seeing one offer out of five, decreases to one fifth.

You may run into difficulties already at the beginning, when determining how long you should display each slide.

  • If the display time is too short, people will simply miss them,
  • however, if the time is too long, there’s no point in having several slides in the first place.

 

It’s also problematic on mobile

 

It is important that the users can use your site smoothly: if possible, that’s even more important on mobile, which we have already talked about earlier.

While browsing on mobile, the users expect not only to keep everything under their control, but to be able to use your ecommerce site comfortably as well, and also that your site is displayed perfectly on a small screen.

It’s extremely rare that sliders appear fine. They usually stick out, slide apart, or they just simply lose all their remaining functionality. In the best case, you find an extension that’s capable of displaying the slide show responsively, and what’s more, it even supports swiping.

However, that usually doesn’t come to the mind of the users, which is logical, because they expect to get to the new pieces of content and new offers only after having scrolled down. And in case you have to explain how something this simple works, you’ve already been on the wrong path for a long time.

 

Large sized sliders slow down your website

 

Since you are stuffing more pieces of visual content in the page, especially when using very high resolution images, it will necessarily load more slowly – and that’s bad for you both on desktop and on mobile. Of course there are remedies for that, like using Varnish cache, but it won’t solve user experience issues.

 

You always have to bear in mind the golden rule of 3

Your page should load in less than 3 seconds and its size should be less than 3 MB. Placing large sized sliders and thus stuffing more and more images or perhaps animations on the page will obviously not facilitate that.

 

What does it say about you if you use sliders?

 

First of all, that you are not capable of providing a nice user experience to your visitors, or that you don’t even want to. This is evidently not a kind thing to do.

On the other hand: if you fill the above-the-fold part of your webpage with 5 to 10 slides, that will show that you don’t exactly know what kind of message you want to show – and for this reason, you try everything at the same time.

You’ll confuse the visitors with that, which will soon lead to the decrease of your conversion rate.

 

Automatic sliders are enemies of content and SEO

 

So we made it clear that sliders by themselves are not suitable for the display and the recommendation of any kind of content. But there’s another problem with it as well, that it takes up space.

 

  • You could display basically anything in your online store instead of the sliders – yet most of the time we can still see so huge slides that cover almost the entire screen and thus push your valuable, carefully created pieces of content to a lower part of the page.
  • And that’s damaging in terms of SEO, since less people get to the pieces of content, less people click on them – and that’s represented not only in the analytics, Google also monitors what user experience your website provides to the users, and sliders have damaging effects on exactly those indices which the algorithm takes into account in that respect.
  • It’s also problematic that in many cases, each and every slide gets a separate headline, of course in H1 – and yet one of the most fundamental principles of SEO is that there should always be only one H1 tag on a page. This way, whenever the slider moves, the headline changes, and thus the efficiency of optimization on a keyword decreases significantly.
  • The worst thing is when you use Flash to display a slide show, yet for some inexplicable reason this still happens in a lot of cases. Flash is just simply not suitable for being used for any kind of search engine optimization, and in case you want your content to be visible on mobile as well, it’s a total disaster, since there are hardly any devices which can display it properly.

 

According to nearly all existing sources, automatic sliders are just simply bad and ineffective. Click To Tweet

 

If it’s absolutely necessary for you to use sliders…

 

We can’t really imagine what reasons you could have for using slide shows on your site – but if you insist on using them, we give you some hints how you can do that without killing the conversion in your online shop.

You should never, ever place the slider on your main page.

It slows down the page, it takes up space, and it is confusing – you couldn’t do anything more damaging. On the other hand, there are some places within the ecommerce store where its use may be reasonable. Such places can be:

 

  • On the product pages where you can display product photos.
  • In a portfolio where you present services, images and animations about the same topic.
  • Places where you have no other goal than showing the content of the slider. Where the slider itself is the purpose, and you don’t use it in order to make the visitor get to anywhere.

 

At places like these, sliders don’t confuse the users, because they don’t try to communicate too many messages at the same time. It presents a specific subject from several aspects instead.

And you should definitely provide some kind of navigation options with which the users can control the slide show – with which they can step forward or back, with which they can stop the automatic change of the slides.

It’s not enough if you place some small clickable dots at the bottom of the images – use clearly visible arrows on at least two sides which make moving forward and backwards possible. And when the users click on these, the slide should freeze: nothing is more irritating than when you move back two slides and the slider automatically starts moving forward again.

 

tips Advice: You should completely forget full-width automatic sliders on a mobile optimized website: you should rather use galleries that the visitor can comfortably go over.

 

You want to display CTAs on the slides?

 

Then you should use a single one.

Don’t distract attention, don’t ask for several things at the same time: you should have one single CTA that appears on each slide the same way, at the same place.

This way the visitors will not have to look for the suitable one – we don’t suggest that you direct your visitors with that, but if you still want to do that, this is the only method that’s actually viable.

On a product page, for example, where you display the photos of the product, you might as well place a CTA on the slides, with which the product can be added to the shopping cart.

 

The alternatives

 

carousel-videos

 

If you decide to display some kind of an effective solution at the top of your page instead of a slider, and if you don’t just want to list your pieces of content or fill up the entire part that’s above the fold with your logo or with navigation, there are several alternatives.

 

1. Static image with CTA

Don’t fritter away attention: look for just one good image and place a CTA on it. Make sure that they are in harmony with each other: the visual message should reinforce how you formulated the invitation. Feel free to use the colour theory as well in order to achieve this.

This way you can also display more significant information, because the visitors will have enough time to read them, and then to click on them. They don’t rush anywhere because they know that the offer will stay before their eyes.

 

2. Registration form

 

 

In case you have a bait offer or you’re just simply capable of formulating invitingly why your visitors should immediately register to your newsletter, you can place the registration form right at the top of the page.

Bear in mind that this has to be very simple: the more fields you use, the less people will provide their data.

In an ideal case the registration form includes 2 or 3 fields (name and email address, this way you can even personalize up to a minimal extent), but it can also be just a single one, requiring the email address. You can deal with the rest when you have already built your database.

 

Your offer should also be very concise and clear:

  • it should be obvious to the visitors right away what you give them (for which they pay with their data),
  • what they have to do (let’s say, write their addresses in the given field),
  • and what happens right after that (for example they will receive the bait item in email)

 

Of course, you can reinforce that as well with an image – by presenting your bait offer or even by presenting somehow how they will benefit from that.

 

3. Videos instead of slides

What’s the difference between a slider and a video? First of all, that the numbers show that videos convert wonderfully, they improve your conversion rate, while sliders kill it. You can check out our article on how you should apply product videos

But why is it like that?

Because videos give the control over to the users. While sliders do their job without intervention, the visitors can pause or play the videos any time they want to.

And they don’t even have to pay attention to more things at the same time: only one thing matters to them in the given moment, what they are seeing in the video. You can create the video in a logical way, with beautiful visual elements, even with sounds, which means you’ll have several ways of emphasizing your most important message. The users will get an excellent storytelling tool instead of an excellent user-irritating tool.

 

Replacing sliders: great solutions for Magento stores

 

If you have a Magento online store, or plan to run one in the future, we have good news for you. The Z-Blocks Magento extension, also compatible with the Magento 2 system, offers a great deal of different possibilities for replacing sliders.

Thanks to Z-Blocks, you can display an unlimited number of static custom blocks on frontend, e.g. banners, CTA messages, promotions, without having to make any changes in template or layout files.

 

Main features:

  • Content options allow countless formats
  • Targeting options allow customer segmentation
  • Placement anywhere within a store/page
  • Display schedule to show block at specific time  (e.g. in a specified promotional period)

 

z-blocks magento extension

 

For further information go to: Z-Blocks

 

Let’s sum it up

  • Most users don’t notice them or don’t want to deal with them.
  • Those who notice them, usually get irritated by them.
  • It spoils the user experience.
  • It hides your most valuable pieces of content.
  • It divides the attention of the user.
  • It takes the control out of his hands.
  • It has a bad effect on the SEO of your site.

You can apply a great deal of other solutions instead of the sliders – you can replace them with videos or static elements, which may bring you a much higher conversion rate later. Or, you can get rid of them totally and promote your content or your best offers on your main page.

Instead of addressing everyone at the same time with the same message, you should start personalizing based on analytics and testing. Collect the necessary data about your visitors and show them specific messages which will very much likely be interesting to them.

Sliders are outdated: they have never been effective, and they are even considered to be specifically bad, damaging solutions which often don’t even perform their only function, the enhancement of the page’s aesthetic appearance, because a lot of people don’t even notice them due to banner blindness.

Their use is not a 100 percent unsubstantiated, but you need to choose very carefully where to put them.

However, if you can help it, you shouldn’t use ecommerce sliders and carousels on your main page or other similarly important spots under any circumstances – unless you want to reduce the conversion of your ecommerce store on purpose.

 

 

Gábor Imre

Gábor Imre

Digital Marketing Manager

Gábor started working for AionHill as a Magento eCommerce project manager. After 6 years, he joined the restructured Marketing Team. His main responsibilities are content strategy and communications partnership management. Gábor has two kids, likes cooking traditional Hungarian meals and playing strategy and online role playing games.


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  • Matthew Harrington

    Excellent summary on sliders and their shortcomings. Thanks!

    • Glad you found it useful @disqus_lSyUm5ZEfR:disqus 😉

  • Jon Fox

    Someone forgot to tell eBay and Amazon that they are destroying their sites by using sliders.
    I never intended anyone to click on the slider. All you have to do in order to examine one of the slides or more, is to mouse over it and it stops. 2- just use the arrows to go between. Again we never intend anyone to use the slider for any reason it is just there to showcase. But they came from some other listing for the item in the first place, so they will only see the slider if they decide to go to the home page.

    I get the philosophy on this page from years ago but much of it just doesn’t necessarily go that way in my outlook and estimation. The biggest websites all use them. But I appreciate the article on this as it helped me see the other side to it all. I was looking for good ideas for a slider when I saw this link. For now, my slider showcases the global categories, like fashion has a slide, consumer electronics has a slide etc. I don’t actually care if anyone sees those images but that they found that phone or hat they came to purchase.

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