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Should high-end interior brands have homepage carousels?

Wayne McMaster

11 June 2015

The problem with carousels (whether auto-scrolling or not) is that it's very easy for content to be missed by the user.

Automatic carousels are typically made to help transmit important messages to the your high-end buyers and specifiers. The common thought is that if they are carefully crafted, well-designed and feature some kind of fancy motion, they will be able to help you pack a lot of important information in your homepage. However some users will still ignore the carousel due to banner blindness. And others may simply not like carousels.

There is evidence publised The Evidence-Based User Experience Research Group, Nielsen Norman Group to support such a hypothesis.

So long as they’re above the fold, your customers will be able to get what you do, understand your key products and know why you are different just by looking at this slideshow, but the idea of an automatic carousel is fundamentally flawed for the following reasons:

Motion Is Distracting

The human eye reacts to movement, even involuntarily. Just the fact that the slide moves will distract the buyer from getting the intended message.

The human eye reacts to movement, even involuntarily.

This example design is flawed in so many ways, but the worst offense is probably in making something move that should be static. It's sad to think that extra money was wasted on jazzing up this design with harmful moving features, rather than just creating simple content that clearly communicates the company's value proposition.”

Inattentional Blindness

In the field of psychology the problem human beings have when it comes to seeing things that they should when motion is involved. It’s called inattentional blindness, and it has been documented by solid research for many decades. Basically, inattentional blindness is when a person experiences a psychological lack of attention as opposed to a real defect in his vision.

Basically, inattentional blindness is when a person experiences a psychological lack of attention as opposed to a real defect in his vision.

It’s essentially the failure of a person to notice unexpected stimulus that is still in his field of vision when additional, attention-demanding tasks need to be done. This is labeled an attentional error and can be attributed to the fact that people are simply overloaded with stimuli.

In his book, “the Customer Creation Equation,” Brian Massey, the conversion scientist, offers his take on sliding banners:

“Imagine trying to read a book, and someone is waving something in front of you every few seconds. Both your reading speed and comprehension would drop.  It turns out that the same is true for home pages.

The motion of a rotating slider - causes the reader to stop scanning the page and look back up.  Almost every test I’ve seen on this is clear: rotating banners reduce conversion rates.”


Serving 100% of your visitors is near-on impossible without knowing something about them yet there seems a self-persuasion with content managers of high-end interior brands that more choice is good = more clicks = more sales. It doesn’t work that way.
Notre Dame University tested their carousel. The chart below shows the results they found. Only 1% of total visitors clicked through from the carousel, and majority of these visitors (84%) interacted with only the first slide of the carousel.

Click though from slider

So be brave

Consider using only one focused banner message instead, this will drive higher Click through rates than a few unfocused multiple banners.

Consider not using image sliders (carousels)

Rotating banners or carousels are not going anywhere soon. Thanks to the herd mentality! However, if you are adamant that your site requires one, here's a checklist of what you should keep in mind:

  1. The slide sequence should be chosen carefully

  2. The carousel slides should never be the only way to access site features and content

  3. Your slide navigation options must be very prominent and obvious (huge arrows on both sides placed over the white overlay work well. Small dots buried in the corners of the image sliders do not)

  4. Never use auto-rotation for mobile sites (due to lack of mouse hover)

  5. Let users control the show (either provide pause and play buttons, or keep the image rotations manual and not automatic)

  6. Make sure slides don’t rotate too quickly or slowly (this possibly requires unique rotation times for each slide)

  7. Pause auto-rotation on hover to avoid changing slides the user is likely to be reading or are about to click

  8. Permanently stop auto-rotation after any active user interaction (i.e. click on carousel controls, see no.3)

  9. On mobile, be sure to support swipe gestures and text legibility if reusing artwork from the desktop site

  10. Offers on the slides must be relevant to your entire target audience (and not just a particular visitor persona)

  11. The lesser the number of slides, the quicker the load time of the homepage
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