Are sliders hurting your conversion rate on your website? We think so
When it comes to website design there is a whole lot of monkey see monkey do going on, that is if someone wants a website designed for them, they ask for features they see on other sites. Their assumption is they take the sites they like or ones that are successful and infer that their success is partially related to these features.
Sliders have been around for many years
and are almost a standard when it comes to designing a homepage. So much so that there are companies that make a lot of money selling their slider features. Just look at this one company that will sell you a wordpress slider for $19 and has over 2 million downloads: http://dev7studios.com/nivo-slider/
At Gaffg our first design featured a slider because well, we thought this is what a good website would have. Sliders do have their moments but I saw some problems with them as time went on. A slider will certainly help direct more traffic to a certain page or article, that is fairly easy to understand but are sliders hurting your overall performance of your website? Well my answer to that is mostly yes but it has to be taken within context.
Some homepages would benefit from having a slider as a means of dressing up their homepage. Sliders imply that you need images so this is the upside of having a slider especially if the rest of your homepage content is more text and links.
So what are the real problems associated with sliders?
Timing is never perfect
Most sliders you can adjust the time to say 8 seconds per slide but is 8 seconds enough time for every slide? To fully optimize your sliders you would want to give them custom timing depending on how much time is required for your user to digest the message and read it. Even if you did set it up this way, would your users know and maybe thing because one slide took longer than it has stopped, maybe they started scanning another part of your site only to see the slider go off again which is another distraction.
Conflicting calls to action
If your slider has built in calls to action (CTA), what about other parts of your website? A slider call to action won't be as good as a static landing page that has one focused CTA.
Distracting your visitors
If the slider isn't the only important item on your homepage then your slider could be distracting the user. Sliders are implied to be time based features of your site like news or promotional related but if you are trying to get the user to signup then you have probably distracted them. A slider will grab the users attention and they will also be scanning your site so if you have other features then you might be making it a bit more challenging for the user to navigate on your site.
Too many slides
Some webmasters when they get their slider they load it up to the max and this is not a good thing. Nobody has time to read through 10 slides and they would only do it if you had perhaps some amazing offers in them. On top of that, too many slides will slow down the loading time of your website and we know that site speed is important for SEO.
Where sliders are best used
Now it isn't to say that sliders are completely outdated tools. They can be good if used in the right way but they don't work for all types of sites. Most affiliates I would say in general don't need sliders but rather need to have a focused landing page or better focused content. The types of sites that can benefit from using sliders are news related and perhaps fashion/artistic where you are trying to showcase more products visually.
We will probably get rid of our slider when launching the new Gaffg website. In the meantime I think sliders are something most website designers like to build into a design because that is what a lot of 'professional' websites do. Ask a designer why they have a slider in there and they probably couldn't give you that good of an answer as to why or how effective they are.
What other CRO experts have to say about sliders?
"Rotating banners are absolutely evil and should be removed immediately" ~Tim Ash of Sitetuners.com
"We have tested rotating offers many times and have found it to be a poor way of presenting home page content" ~Chris Goward of Widerfunnel.com
Chris also goes on to say "It is the only way your Art Director has found to give all of the competing messages equal priority in the limited home page space."
So yes, sliders are a lazy way for designers to help the webmaster fit a lot of content into a small space and it is also the lazy way for a webmaster to update this space. That is you have some text, a link and you just need some image presentation which sometimes can be created in minutes. To focus on conversion would be to reorganize the homepage to try to get the most out of the space you have and it forces the webmaster to revisit their goals and purposes of their website.