Improve your web traffic by getting rid of this dying website trend and doing these instead

Originally written for a client

You know the saying “less is more”? That literally can be applied to everything in life and by now we’ve all witnessed it in one way or another. For example, all those cool features in technology were once worthy of drumming up some “oohs” and “aahs” but nowadays people just want a quick, easy experience. This especially rings true in website design. If someone is on your website, it’s because they’re seeking information that they want to be able to find quickly and easily. You know what’s hindering that from happening? That big slider on your website! We’re past the stage where we feel we need to entice our web visitors to remember us by having a big, showy website slideshow on our home page. We’ve discovered that sliders are now said to actually hurt the user experience rather than helping it. Here’s are the reasons why:

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The movement is disorienting: A slider is the first thing a user will look at when they land on our homepage. According to the 3 second rule, you essentially have 3 seconds to wow a user with your web layout before they hit the “back button” and hurt your bounce rates [3]. The aggressive movement, blinking, shifting, or whatever movement is happening in your slider can capture attention, but can be disorienting for your web visitor [3]. It can also be obtrusive, and take the focus away from what they were looking for from your website in the first place [3]. The goal is to use your website’s aesthetic appeal to point them in the direction of the information they’re seeking, not to distract them from that with arbitrary information flashing in from of them. And let’s face it, when you go a website do you sit back in your chair and absorb yourself in the homepage slideshow? Maybe pop some popcorn and watch it? If you’re anything like me, you head right up to the menu tabs and navigate to the information you’re looking for.

They hurt your SEO: Sliders or “carousels” can actually hurt your website’s SEO, which is critical in placing you above your competition in search engine results. The reason being is that search engines don’t “crawl” flash content [2]. Search engines crawl millions of website per second to find content in their coding that’s relevant to the search of the user. A website that had headings, body text, and images on their homepage will rank better than a webpage that has a big carousel on it, as the carousel offers no opportunity to contribute to your SEO. You’re better off using a static image with headers, or a jpeg banner. Additionally, your slider is slowing down your website. The more “stuff” we cram into our website affects the site’s loading speed [2]. And we all know humans are impatient, so if you’re page takes too long to load, your visitor is going to give up and find a website that loads faster.

No one is clicking them: We know this is kind of going to sound like a harsh truth, as most people put “feel good” stock photos or what they think will be a top performing slide in their web carousel. But, the simple truth is that no one clicks on web sliders. Oddly enough, no matter what is put in the web slider, research shows that the web sliders still vastly under-perform. A study done by Search Engine Land found that no matter what was put in the web carousel, it drummed up very few click by the web visitors, only about .22% of users actually clicked on the carousel [2]. Additionally, they concluded that a big carousel pushed the important lead-generating content further down “below the fold” which hindered the main point of a website- to generate leads and deliver information to the user [2].

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They’re annoying: Okay this one sounds really harsh, but we’re just trying to help you make your website be the best that it can be! Carousels/sliders are annoying. I’ve been on countless websites that contain a slider that actually has userability issues. In the rare instance that something in the carousel actually had information I was looking for, the slide changed before I could navigate there. So I tried to get back to that slide, but just ended up clicking on the wrong one. I had to wait for the slide to come around again, and the process is annoying. This isn’t just our personal opinion, either. Search Engine Land used the metaphor of sitting on a couch watching TV trying to find something to watch. Imagine another person is holding the remote flipping through channels, and every time you try to see what’s on, they flip the channel on you before you can really find out. I completely agree with their metaphor, it’s just like. And totally annoying.

In addition to the slider, here are some other web features worth ditching to improve the user experience on your website:

Huge images: Some companies put that huge image right on their homepage with the intent to capture attention and engage their visitors. But it essentially hosts the same problem as the carousel in that it just pushes your important lead-generating content down below “the fold” (btw, “the fold” is the viewing cut-off on a web page that mandate that the visitor has to scroll down). The goal is to make your visitors work as little as possible to find the information they need.

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Stock photos: CEO and Founder of Magoosh, Inc., a company that specializes in helping customers prep for major tests, states that “Authenticity and personality are more important now than ever. Customers want to interact with brands they trust and want to learn about the people behind the company” [1]. Basically, we’re not fooling anyone with the stock photos anymore. They’re so prominent on webpages that visitor’s know that they’re staged and borrowed. Putting a stock photo near relevant information looks fake. Instead, opt to take real photos of your staff or customers (with permission) [1]. The little effort it takes to make the face of your business more real goes a long way.

Anything that’s “automated” or “auto-plays”: Anything that automatically pops-up or automatically starts playing as soon as a visitor gets to your website is annoying. We’ve all been in a situation where we’re on the computer at work or somewhere public and a video starts playing and emits a loud sound that makes people turn their heads. It’s almost startling. And it’s annoying when you’re reading something and a big data-capture pop-up makes you lose your place in the body text. Anything automated takes the control away from your user, which hurts the user experience.

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So by now you probably get the picture, it’s time to ditch the home page slider and some of those other outdated web features that are hurting rather than helping. So what can you use instead that’s more effective at navigating users to the right place and is just as engaging? Oh we’re so glad you asked! Here are simple tips to make the user experience of your website ideal for your visitors:

  1. Get rid of the clutter: You don’t need a bunch of “stuff” on there to keep your visitors intrigued. Just a clean, simple aesthetic design.
  2. Make sure your graphics are simple and relevant: Just because a graphic looks cool and you like doesn’t mean it fits the information. Additionally, make sure none of them blink, flash etc. [4].
  3. Keep fonts consistent: Don’t use more than 2 or 3 fonts on your site, it can make things confusing and “over-the-top”. Webdesign.about.com encourages the use of Serif for headlines, and Sans-Serif for body text. Serif is visually appealing, while sand-serif is easier to read [4].
  4. Use simple, standard, layouts: There shouldn’t be information all over the place, and there shouldn’t be too many divisions or sections of content. Use the 3-column method. It works because it’s simple to read, and easy to view [4]. Your layout should be simple and uniform.
  5. Make your navigation as simple as possible: Typically, your users already have in mind the information they’re looking for from your site, so the navigation to get there should be quick and easy. Keep you menu tabs prominent and easy to read.

Bottom line, anyone who’s ever surfed the web knows what they want to see and experience when they land on a website. Next time you’re online, be conscious about the web features you found to help your experience and the ones you found to hurt it. Your site visitors probably feel the same way. And priority one….ditch the slider.

 

References:

[1] Gerber, Scott. “12 Outdated Web Features That Need to Disappear in 2014.”Mashable.com. Mashable, Inc., 14 Jan. 2014. Web. 21 Oct. 2016.

[2] Jones, Harrison. “Homepage Sliders: Bad For SEO, Bad For Usability.”SearchEngineLand.com. Search Engine Land, 19 June 2013. Web. 21 Oct. 2016.

[3] Kolowich, Lindsay. “17 Things People Absolutely Hate About Your Website.”Hubspot.com. Hubspot, 3 May 2016. Web. 21 Oct. 2016.

[4] Kyrnin, Jennifer. “Basics of Web Design: 14 Tips for Better Pages.” Abouttech. About, Inc., 22 Jan. 2016. Web. 21 Oct. 2016.

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