#20 Should i use a carousel?

Episode: #20
Running time - 8:05 mins

Carousels are the all the rage but are they ruining your website?

There is a website (ShouldIUseACarousel.com) which has got a lot of attention, is it right however in its assumption that you should never use a carousel / image slider?

Exploring the problem of carousels

  • Users often see them as advertising and they can be missed very easily
  • They are distracting when reading other content
  • In one test Only 1% clicked a feature and 89% of that was in the first position - why not have a single hero image????
  • Burden of seeing it’s a carousel and then learning it
  • They add to file size - the javascript, css and extra images increases page load time
  • Accessibility issues - users using only a keyboard
  • Dilute the main message given and can hide the story and important information
  • People read at different speeds
Carousel usage

Why use them in the first place?

  • The benefit is that you can fit in a lot of information in a small space
  • Designers think they are cool (aaarrrrrhhhhh)
  • They are often a compromise of bickering organisations are departments who often want to the on the home page/ Remember what we said said earlier - 89% click on the first one

Bad use of a carousel / image slider

The website Created M is a bad example of slider usage. It has auto scroll on, has no navigation, no context in what or how many slides there are. It's distracting and useless.

Bad use - Carousel usage

When to use a carousel?

  • Showing off portfolio content - the user knows what to expect and a task is looking through the content
  • Photography / Real Estate - makes viewing easy and the images are related
  • Want users to grab a very important second message. This message must also be repeated on the site and not just in the carousel
  • Weather application - they expect the next days weather to show

Alternatives to Carousels?

Have no carousel and just use a single hero image. In 23 and Me they use a strong image, headline and call to action efficiently. No need for a fancy carousel.

23 and Me - no slider

The great thing about NOT using a carousel is Focus.

Ben Sherman

Ben Sherman

It would have been so easy for them to have a slider - but it’s all about focus and no distraction - my kind of design - effective and purposeful!

Alternatives to Carousels?

Make it smaller, most of the drawbacks occur but they can be clearer, present information well and still save space.

If you must use a carousel

  • Make navigation very clear, large with a thumbnail and text - giving user context and control
  • Never have core content in a carousel - articles - crucial pieces of information
  • If you absolutely must auto scroll it - 3 words per second
  • Minimal amounts of text
  • No more than 5 slides. Make absolutely sure every slide has earned it’s place to be there
  • Pause on hover
  • Don’t have contrasting Call To Actions - they must relate
  • Think if it hinders your site - if in doubt remove. - Test it
Rec Sports

Rec Sports Looks integrated into site, Strong navigation, thumbnails + text, clear Call To Actions, no auto scroll and is a good example of a carousel if you must use one.

Back to the original question, Should i use a carousel?

In most instances - No, but like most things it depends.

You must however understand there drawbacks and prove they work.