A slider is a website feature which displays multiple large images in a sequence with a transition effect. They might also include text, audio, call to action buttons and video. Sliders are found on many small business homepages right below the primary navigation menu.

Sliders are confusing and distracting to customers, resulting in lost clicks and lost sales. So why do businesses keep using them?

Why Sliders Look Good

The primary appeal of a slider is its ability to show multiple things in the same space. Most companies have more than one product or service offering to share at once or more than one aspect to their tagline. Business owners and managers are attracted to the idea that their website can promote all kinds of things in a condensed space and with more freedom than buying ad space.

People love sliders for two main reasons:

  • Sliders are novel. The animation and movement looks “cool”. Decision makers like that the panels move and change.
  • Sliders are easy. Say you’ve got a new offer, but you still want to promote the old one. Why bother choosing just one or changing your strategy? Put both of ’em up.

The only downside is that these reasons aren’t substantial. You simply shouldn’t make large web design decisions based on novelty and ease.

Three Big Problems

Sliders suffer from inconsistency. Today’s websites most often use high resolution photographs rather than illustrations. Unless you’ve done extensive planning and have done your own photo shoot, each photograph on your slider will have different lighting and colors. There is no way the static elements of your homepage are going to look good next to each one.

With each slide transition, the tone and message of your whole homepage changes. Users assume the homepage summarizes the website. When the whole homepage slides out and something different shows up, what are you saying? You just changed the assumed topic of the whole site. Who are you representing with each image? Sliders produce inconsistency, which produces confusion. Confusion sucks.

But wait! Sliders can be redeemed. One of their appealing uses is calling your customer’s attention to multiple things at once. That’s useful. Right? Unfortunately, this is the definition of distraction.

The human eye reacts to movement like a threat. Motion means “Hey, stop building that fire- there’s a Sabre-tooth cat over there. Better scram.” Moving sliders catch our attention and stop us in our tracks. Once the slider changes, who knows what else is different? A slider could permanently stall your customer from clicking “BUY”.

Animated sliders have another nefarious effect. They make your homepage look a whole lot like a giant banner ad. And nobody clicks on those. Tests show barely one percent of visitors will click on even slide one. That’s a lot of lost clicks due to banner blindness.

Hope For Sliders

There is one way you can have a homepage slider and not be cursed. If each slide contributes to the telling of one message, you can achieve better consistency and minimize some of the distraction. When the slides are working together, the transition animations are subtle, and the user has navigation buttons to move the slides, MAYBE then I’d let a slider slide. Your own independent testing is needed to determine the effectiveness.

In Review

Sliders are confusing. They are stressful, distracting, a waste of money, terrible, awful and no-good. Even when your slider is used to tell just one consistent story and has super subtle animation, it might still be ignored.

Instead, the same area at the top of your page can be used for one large image and accompanying text. No animated transitions and no second or third “slides” needed. Use one fantastic picture and the most important action you want customers to take. Focus your homepage on one message and limit distractions.