Not all of my notes from Pressnomics are quotes or ideas from the presenter. I also include a lot of opinion and commentary. I keep my notebook handy once I get home and read through it when I need a little inspiration, a few new blog post ideas, or a reminder of a concept I found really exciting—I use them as a kind of “idea diary”.
That’s why when Helen Souness from Envato presented Insider Buying and Selling Trends from ThemeForest and one of the slides showed that the top search from June-August was “slider”, I doodled what became that graphic up there. And it’s obvious that I felt pretty strongly about the subject, since it took up about 1/4 of a page of my sketchbook :D
Why I think WordPress sliders suck (most of the time)
1. They’re not that effective
How often do you actually pay attention to sliders when you’re using the web? And if you do look at them, how often do you read past the first slide? Studies by both Jakob Nielsen and Notre Dame University have confirmed that sliders just aren’t that effective. The Notre Dame study found that only 1% of clicks were on the first slide in a slider, and none of the other slides got any love at all! Haven’t you become so accustomed to sliders that you scroll right past them looking for the content you really came for? (And if you’re wondering why that happens, there’s a great article over at ConversionXL that goes into the science behind the phenomenon of “banner blindness”)
2. They are confusing
The other day I was trying to sign up for a newsletter. There was a big hero area at the top of the page with a gorgeous image and a nice big call to action box. I started filling it out. I entered my name and was getting ready to enter my email address when I realized the submit button was gone. Hmmm. So I reloaded the page and tried again. Same thing happened. And again. Seriously?
It took me five or six tries to finally figure out what was going on. They’d put the call to action in a slider that advanced automatically. Since I never learned to type, I look at my hands a lot. While I was looking down, the slider would advance and the form would disappear.
To *really* screw with my head, the picture stayed the same—only the content rotated. I really wanted to get updates from that site, so I put in the effort to figure it out, but how many conversions do they lose because people can’t figure out where the hell their form went?
3. They’re lazy design
I think defaulting to a home page slider is just lazy design. We (and I’m including myself in this statement; I’m guilty of it too) use them so we don’t have to prioritize our messaging. Every department gets a slide for their favorite message, and you never have to really find the most important content, or tell someone their message is less important than another.
I totally get why it’s an easy decision to make. But that’s it—it’s an easy out, and a lazy way of designing a page. It means you don’t have to have uncomfortable conversations and helps you keep the client happy without causing any conflict. Of course, that means everything goes into the same big “looky here” spot—and when everyone is yelling, nobody really gets heard, do they?
So if sliders suck most of the time, what’s the alternative?
Focus on one targeted message and make your call to action obvious
One of the worst things about sliders is there’s no one clear message or call to action with a slider—there are five. Instead, sit down and really think about what one message you want to communicate, and what one thing you want a visitor to do. You should use your brand blueprint to answer those questions and figure out what that is. Make it clear and obvious what the purpose of the page is—to sign up for a newsletter, subscribe to posts, or buy a product. Then make it fast and easy for them to do that one thing. Basically, give your audience access to the information they’re looking for without hiding it five slides into a slider.
When don’t sliders suck?
There are exceptions to every rule, and not every use of a slider is bad. I’ve seen photographers use them to show each session with multiple shots and they work great! It’s also an effective way of showing a series of product shots. And I’ve seen some really cool messaging sliders done using Layer Slider that tell a compelling story, demand attention, and create a real emotional impact. Basically, you sliders might work if the point of the slider is to view slides, not get someone to do something else. In those instances where you are going to use a WordPress slider plugin, use one that’s lightweight, fast, and mobile and touch ready like Thomas Griffin’s Soliloquy, which is at the top of my plugins list.
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