Why you shouldn't use web slideshows anymore

Why you shouldn't use web slideshows anymore

February 24, 2021
(Reading time: 2 - 4 minutes)

We have all seen them, used them, and clicked on them. They are at the top of most websites. The marketing department loves them because they can pack so much information in them. What are they? They are slideshow, image rotators, carousels, and sliders. But - newsflash - they aren't all they are cracked up to be!

Slide two is where you “hide the dead.”

Numerous studies have focused on how effective slideshows are along with click-through rate. Jakob Nielsen ran a test study where users were asked, "Does Siemens have any special deals on washing machines?” The information was on the first slide. Even after viewing the page for an extended amount of time, users gave up, stating that "I wouldn't choose [a Siemens appliance] unless I was very rich." Notre Dame performed a similar test. It tracked the number of clicks and then compared them to the number of visitors to the homepage. Only 1% of total visitors actually clicked the call-to-action item on the slideshow.

But we have to have this “above the fold.”

Another newsflash - it isn't 1997 anymore, and the fold is dead. Everybody scrolls just as often, even before the page finishes loading.

Dear marketing, your <insert message here> is now on the homepage.

Visitors arrive at the homepage of your site, and they have to orient themselves to the layout of your site. They immediately see a big banner, and the content isn't relevant to their search or immediate need. Why? Because the marketing department is pushing the content it wants to highlight versus what your visitors need to see. Now visitors have skipped right past your carefully crafted banners. Onto the rest of the page, or even worse, they hit the back button!

Lee Duddell posted this on StackExchange UX in response to the question, are carousels effective?

"Carousels are effective at being able to tell people in Marketing/Senior Management that their latest idea is now on the Home Page.

They are next to useless for users and often “skipped” because they look like advertisements. Hence they are a good technique for getting useless information on a Home Page (see first sentence of this post)."

Not enough? Here are some other reasons.

  • Most of the time, your slideshow will not do well in an accessibility study. They lack support for users with language or motor skill issues.
  • You are limited to approximately 125 characters to avoid JAWS subdividing it. That is less than one tweet! This paragraph is 129.
  • Our bodies are wired to react to movement. Therefore the slideshow distracts the user from everything else you need them to see on the page. It’s the same principle of talking to someone while a TV is playing in the background. The person facing the TV will get distracted because it is in our DNA to respond to movement.
  • Over time we have conditioned ourselves to ignore ads, and the banners often feel like ads. Slideshows are bad for mobile. Especially in today's market where we need to serve images for everyone from the desktop user with a 4k monitor to the holdout still using an iPhone 4s. Sure we can serve different images to different devices, but is that helping the user or putting a bandage on the problem to please senior management?

What is the solution, Mr. Smarty Pants?

A good stand-alone image or hero image could work wonders. Combine it with a call-to-action (CTA) button, and you have marketing gold.

Another option might be to use a grid of images. Go the extra mile and make them all clickable. Now you have a set of CTAs that are more device-independent.

You can also jump on one of the hottest current trends by using an engaging video. However, be careful not to use video just because "the cool kids are doing it," but use video to convey a message that you can't with a still image.


My final thoughts are this, while I highly recommend against using a slideshow, I will admit there are times where they are warranted. Given these are few and far between.

If you are looking for some free feedback on your website or need an outsider’s opinion, please reach out to us. We offer a free consultation and would be happy to talk to you!

Adam Bennett

Written by:  |  February 24, 2021

Adam is the president and founder of Cube Creative Design and specializes in private school marketing. Since starting the business in 2005, he has created individual relationships with clients in Western North Carolina and across the United States. He places great value on the needs, expectations, and goals of the client.

See Adam Bennett's' bio: cubecreative.design/about/adam-bennett