Why you should use a carousel



Web carousels have had a bad rap of late. Once a common part of the web landscape now many designers are tripping over each other to diss them. This site in particular gained a lot of traction recently. So I’m fully aware that common wisdom is against me.

And perhaps for good reason. In many cases the arguments are sound: they hide content; force people to click to find things; and end up as depositories of odd, assorted content.

Debenhams homepage carousel

An example of a carousel with too much going on (sorry Debenhams)

A new way to carouse

But I think there's still a place for these much-maligned war horses of the web content landscape. Even as auto-playing carousels at the top of landing pages. Because when users first land on your site there is a real benefit to quickly giving them an idea of what you do. Think of them more like video.

Why not use actual video? Because auto-playing video is just too offensive and scary. Especially with audio, where sudden noises increase the likelihood users will panic into closing the tab. And often the case is that seeing a video when you land on a page means advert. And no-one watches *them* through choice.

Take this for a spin

During my time at onefinestay we consistently had a carousel on the homepage and I watched many user tests where I saw the benefit. Within 20 seconds and without the user touching their mouse, the carousel used its four large images to show variety, set the scene, and tell the story of what the company offered.

onefinestay homepage carousel

The onefinestay homepage carousel

Mainly they saw a selection of homes, which helps explain that this wasn’t a hotel site but a service offering a range of different places. Something that is really hard (and expensive) to sum up in one great image. We were also able to put an offer or promotion on the first slide, giving it importance without losing the home shots that explain the concept to first time visitors.

Ground rules

There are, of course, a few rules to get the most out of them:

So if you're a department store and you're bunging lots of things in your carousel to save space and keep all departments happy you should stop, as you're doing it wrong. But if you’re a new service that has a story to tell through pictures, then the carousel can still be your friend.

Last updated on 28 June 2016

ux / user testing / ecommerce / carousels / interface / content / onefinestay / video /

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