A few months ago, my 16-year old son James started walking around with a lanyard hanging out of his pocket. Not being one to hold back much, I said, “Dude, that thing hanging out of your pocket looks pretty dumb.”
He replied that having a lanyard (also known as a “swag tag”) hanging out of his pocket helps him keep track of his keys (as they’re attached to the other end). Me: “Okaaaaay.”
Since then, I’ve noticed that the kid who cleans the gym where I workout has a lanyard hanging out of his pocket as do lots of other young men. So obviously, it’s a fad.
Like lanyards, you can find fads in the web marketing space, and one of them is “sliders” (or carousels), those ubiquitous moving banners on Websites. I’m being asked more and more to write “content” for them.
I’m not a big fan of them, but since “everyone” is doing them, I write the calls-to-action for them without protest — all the while thinking, “Do these things help conversion?”
I understand why small business owners ask for them.
- One, they give a site a sense of being dynamic — of having movement.
- Two, with home page real estate being limited, sliders give you a sense of additional space — the way a 50-story building takes up space vertically versus horizontally.
- And three, they make it easy to not have to create real content that says what your company offers — just grab some stock images, write a CTA and you’re good.
So when a colleague emailed me a couple of weeks ago to say her designer was recommending that she NOT use a slider, I took note immediately. She wanted my opinion — was he correct?
Short answer: Yes, he’s correct.
Sliders lower conversions — and B2B buyers hate them.
In January 2013, Web usability expert Jakob Neilsen wrote in his post, “Auto-Forwarding Carousels, Accordions Annoy Users, Lower Conversions,” that people don’t read sliders and in fact, will ignore them altogether.
They ignore them for the obvious reason: They move. Usually too fast.
(I’m a fast reader and even I have trouble reading slider content before the next slider is displayed.)
Last month, Harrison Jones wrote in a Search Engine Land post, Homepage Sliders: Bad for SEO, Bad for Usability, that according to his research, sliders lower conversions and they’re bad for SEO. I won’t repeat everything he said but basically sliders encompass a whole host of issues, including multiple H1 tags, slow loading, and confusing objectives.
Both Neilsen and Jones post alternatives to sliders, two of which include:
1. Remove them.
One reason companies use sliders, according to Jones, is to target personas.
Done correctly, however, you can create a small to mid-sized B2B site that targets specific personas without using a slider. You can use content boxes on the home page to direct site visitors to content (the way my client, ClearView Consulting Company does) as well as use navigational elements and lead generation content such as e-books, white papers, demo CTAs, etc.
One thing to note: HubSpot, a company that practices what it preaches and targets multiple personas, has a static homepage. So obviously they’re not buying into the slider fad. I also love their succinct CTA that speaks to any one of their audiences: “Use HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing software to consistently generate more visits, leads, and customers.”
2. Make them static.
Instead of having it auto-forward, you can keep your slider static. Users can click the “dots” or arrows to scroll through the banners at their own pace. ExactTarget, for example, has a slider that moves fairly slowly, and it also has arrows along the bottom that let you scroll through the banners.
I’m a realist, however. I know people will continue to use sliders because like my son with his lanyard, sliders are perceived as “cool” and “everyone does them.” If you’re in this camp, my tips for sliders are:
3. Reduce the number of banners used.
Instead of having five banners, consider two or three. This reduces overwhelm on the reader while also forcing you to think through why you’re actually using a slider and the message you want to communicate.
4. Write home page content that explains what your company offers.
One of the top problems I see with B2B Websites is that the content doesn’t explain what the company offers. And as Jones points out, companies will often use sliders as a stand-in for copy. Last week, for example, a prospect called me for help with his company’s site. My first impression of the site was that his company offers some kind ERP software (except I wasn’t sure because it wasn’t clear what his company offered) and is somehow connected to SAP since the SAP logo was so prominent.
“No,” he said, “SAP is our client. We offer high-end fax technology. That’s why I’m calling you. We need help.”
I know we’ve all become visually oriented thanks to Facebook and Instagram, and yes, a picture can convey more than text. But the fact of the matter is, B2B buyers are searching for information to solve their challenges. A picture on a slider simply cannot explain how you help solve these challenges.
A slider, in other words, is a billboard. When was the last time you made a complex purchasing decision from a billboard? I’m guessing . . . never.
You have approximately 10 seconds to capture people’s attention when they arrive at your Website. Having a good headline and succinct copy that explains what you do, in plain English, will help grab their attention (“Ahhh, this is a company that can help me,” your visitor thinks) and prime them for taking the next step in the sales process.
What’s your opinion of sliders? Love them? Hate them? Leave your comments below.