'10 Reasons' Why Web Page Sliders Suck

Almost eight years on, I've finally decided to stop being one of the herd. Thinking they were always a stupid idea, I've finally wrapped up in classic '10 reasons' style why web page sliders suck.

We're talking about those massive home page banner slideshows, or carousels, that greet you on the vast majority of websites since 2009. Big, shiny, glossy photo sliders that take up most of the space in your browser 'above the fold' - that is, before you first scroll down.

We're not talking about images galleries that tell a story or present a portfolio, those have their place. It's sliders; looping, auto-forwarding, flying, fading, chequer-boarding, Rubix-ing, blinking, loitering sliders. Those. Convinced yet? No?

In an attempt to make a very long rant into a very short argument, here's precisely why web page sliders suck:

1. They take up valuable real estate.

Massive slider carousels just take up a lot of space above the fold when you really want your visitors to get straight to the valuable content. And actually, so do they. Google said this back in 2012. We didn't listen.

2. They are in the 'annoying and pointless' animation category

Sliders are just a big lump of endlessly looping animation. You can't switch them off. Who needs the distraction of something that big constantly moving, taking your eye off the valuable content? Sliders either change too fast to read, or too slow to wait.

Moreover, who sits and waits to look at all the pretty slides in the carousel? Who has the time? Apart from the Design Agency's Art Director?

3. They cause confusion

The worst sliders have 8, 10, even 12 slides on them. That's too many things screaming LOOK AT ME. Too many calls to action. Too many offers and promotions competing for your attention. Can't work out which offers to promote? Throw them all in! Conversion Rate metrics for the last decade back this up: sliders don't convert. That's a hard-cash reason not to use them. Focus, please.

4. Almost nobody clicks on them

Some research from way back in 2013 stated that only 1% of people actually click on a slider, which almost always was the first slide. Given the shift to mobile, I suspect that even fewer visitors click on the sliders now (more below). So what's the point? It's just something else to scroll past.

5. They lengthen page load times

Half a dozen big images files and a bucketload of Javascript. That's mostly what sliders shove down the pipe to the browser. Users don't want to wait. Your home page has to load in three seconds or less yet you waste 2.5 seconds of that on something they didn't ask for and don't look at. Go green. Economise.

6. They are an accessibility nightmare

Sliders don't work for the visually impaired. They don't work for screen readers. The controls don't work for anybody - tiny little dots and auto-hiding left-right arrows? Seriously?

7. They add no value to SEO

There's nothing in a slider that connects to the core SEO markup in your page. It's a big blob of nothing that the search engine spiders skip right over to get to the actual content on your page. There may be valuable links in the slider that don't appear anywhere else in the page (if you're really getting it wrong); links that the spiders miss or downgrade. Spiders don't read pages like humans. In fact, most humans don't read web pages like they're supposed to.

8. They cause banner blindness

Visitors just don’t get the message because they will skip the text in your slider. Animated sliders sit in the same category as unwanted advertising and promotions. Which is problematic because all sliders are either advertising or promotions. And as we're so used to ignoring them, we ignore even more advertising and promotions elsewhere in the site.

9. They don't work well on mobile

That thing that doesn't work on desktop, with the rubbish controls and terrible accessibility? It's worse on mobile. The big high-resolution 'hero images' and text overlays? Shrinks smaller than a postage stamp on a phone. Most sliders are not responsive on mobile. The results vary between plain ugly and unreadable. Impact? Zero.

Three things to remember: 4G, Wi-Fi, page load times.

10. They create more work than they bring benefit

How much time do you spend trawling for exactly the right 'hero' images for the slider, cropping, resizing, colouring, fading, adding effects?

One of our clients got shafted by their software house with the slider from hell.  The first half was a slab of promotional text. The fourth quarter contained a fiendishly complicated search box.  The hero image was only visible in the third quarter. Not only that, but the hero image had a fancy edge fade all around. So you had to pick a good close shot then crop the life out of it and apply a complex fade requiring Photoshop or the equivalent and the knowledge to use it.

Apart from hiring a Medieval monk to illuminate the edges of every user's screen, it was probably the most expensive way to change a homepage ever invented.

Adding insult to injury, very little of that client's image library stood up to use as hero images for sliders. Difficult to crop and dull as ditch water, they added almost nothing in value.

If you don't have a selection of decent, high-quality hero images for your slider? You have to acquire some. Sliders don't work with cheap, low-res, low-quality, cheesy library stock or (heaven forbid) clipart.

Net benefit? See items 1-9 above.

So why do so many websites have sliders?

This is where the wisdom of crowds breaks down. Sliders are group muddle-think.

"Everyone else has a slider, we need one too." That's what we call Lemming Theory. No.

"Designers love them. Big, shiny, glossy moving things. Sliders are so designer-ey. The designer must be right." No.

"They are eye-catching, users love them." No.

The solution?

Ditch the sliders. You don't need them. My technology blog never had one. My writing site never had one. My film site never had one. Our publishing site doesn't have one.

It's not perfect, but the BBC website doesn't have sliders.

A couple of sites I run for organisations no longer have them. Since last weekend.

What goes in place of the slider?

Content. Headlines. Calls to action. Still images - where you need them. You can have hero images if you want, but they don't need to move and they don't need to shuffle like a deck of cards on a 'Vegas Black Jack table. RC