Why your fancy new home page carousel kinda sucks

Carousels are great, except when they're not. Here's what you're doing wrong.

Recently, I've heard from a number of colleagues on LinkedIn and elsewhere about the omnipresent home page carousel. You know, those loveable promotional images that slide in from left or right on home pages everywhere. They're awesome, right? Maybe not.

Marketing teams and even web designers love the carousel. They allow you to showcase a handful of promotional images in one convenient space. In fact, their use is encouraged by website frameworks, such as Twitter Bootstrap, which come equipped with carousel functionality already built it. So what’s the problem exactly? Click-through rates.

The majority of carousels have little arrows on either side of the image, as well as small indicators – usually dots – centred under the image itself. Clicking either arrow or the dots will advance the slides. Easy enough. So why, then, does the click through rate for each successive image slide drop precipitously? The reason isn’t the carousel itself, but your navigation style.

Take the Evernote home page for example.

Screenshot of the Evernote home page carousel

You’ll see the standard layout of arrows and little wee dots. Looks nice enough. But as a marketer, you’re not giving the user a compelling reason to click. It’s just an arrow. Is what’s on the other end of that innocent looking arrow worth the time and effort? The user has no idea. All the user knows is that there’s more, but more what?

What’s needed is a clear value proposition. A meaningful, clear message tells the user why they should advance the slide.

Recommended style for a carousel

You can read more about home page carousels, and how to fix them, at the University of Notre Dame.