Image Carousels Don’t Convert

Image Carousels Don’t Convert

I thought of titling this “Image Carousels Are Evil,” but that sounded too melodramatic. But think back to your school days. Ever been reading a book and have some kid shut it on you or swipe the pages so you lose your place? That’s what reading carousel content feels like to me. Only they keep doing it. And it’s their book, which they spent a lot of time writing, and then asked me to read it. It just doesn’t make any sense. Why bully your customers?

I’m not the only one who feels this way. Jared Smith built ShouldIUseACarousel? to bring attention to this issue. It is an entertaining, educational look at why they don’t work.  Jared’s initial issue is accessibility, which is clearly important, but there is also the conversion and effectiveness issue.

I’m going to blatantly steal a couple of his references because you might miss them (hey, they’re in a carousel) and they’re important.

Erik Runyon shows that everyone clicks on the first image. If you picked a carousel because you believe all of its content is equally important, you’re not treating them equally unless the carousel is randomized for each visit.

Jakob Nielsen, usability consultant to the stars, writes how the user fails at their task when presented with a carousel. Usability is so insanely important in ecommerce because it tests whether the customer can buy something from you. That’s the whole point of your site!

In talking with clients and ecommerce folks, it’s clear at this point that people want carousels (AKA image sliders) because other sites use them. It’s trading on social proof. But carousels started because these popular sites designed by committee, beholden to politics and hostage to infighting between multiple stakeholders who all demand their content be “above the fold.” That’s not you. And in fact, it’s no longer them, either. The big sites got smart and now have conversion optimizers on staff who can prove carousels don’t work. They will make my point for me.

Back in the Web 1.0 days, the aforementioned Jakob Nielsen gave some great advice: copy Yahoo and Amazon. By this, he meant you should follow the practices set by the companies who are teaching people what to expect on the web. That lesson still applies.

I don’t know if Amazon is still a good example to follow, as they are so big they can break rules or make new ones. They even force me to make the distinction that I’m really rallying against auto-forwarding, because they have two carousels on their home page and neither auto-forward. Carousels that are entirely under user control are fine, but visitors are unlikely to see content other than the default.

Other than Amazon, there are plenty of billion dollar companies with crack optimization teams. Macy’s has a tiny rotating image at the top that you can safely ignore; the rest is composed of static content areas. Nordstrom and Target are all static content. Anthropologie has some sparkly decorative animation, but it’s mostly an image map.

All of those companies realize that above the fold isn’t important anymore. You’re going to scroll down. Part of this is because most home page views are direct visits – you typed the URL into your browser, so they’re not worried about bouncing like they would with a landing page from an ad or search result link.

The lesson, like always, is to hypothesize what content will have the biggest impact on profit, then test it against other options and measure the results. When you realize that’s your mission, you drop the carousel quickly because they are too hard to test.

If someone has put a gun to your head and forced you to use a carousel, please use one that does the following:

  • Automatically pauses on hover. Mouse pointer movement correlates highly with eye tracking, so the pointer on the image means they are reading it, or – crazy thought – are getting ready to click. Don’t yank it away like Lucy with a football.
  • Stop rotating content the moment a carousel navigation button – side or bottom – is clicked. Same reason as above.

But really, just stop. In fact, remove any animation or movement from a page you want me to read. As Jared Smith says, it’s the blink tag all over again.

Buy Facebook Ads and Lower Customer Engagement

Most people know that buying likes from click farms is a waste of money. After watching the video below, I learned that buying legitimate ads from Facebook is almost as bad. It is filled with click fraud (fake likes), which destroys legitimate engagement due to FB’s own engagement detection algorithms. The video does a fantastic job explaining this and backing it up with evidence.

(Disclaimer: I can’t take credit for this video or the research. Wish I could.)

Passive Agressive Call to Action Buttons

Passive Agressive Call to Action Buttons

Marketing is hard. It certainly doesn’t help when all these stupid jerks come to your site, check it out, and then take no action. I mean, you made it very clear what they should be doing on your site, but they just don’t follow instructions. Pisses you off, right?

Well, some people who are just as angry at their customers have found a way to express this: calls to action that clearly highlight how stupid potential customers are being when they don’t buy what you’re selling. I’ve come up with some of my own examples that you are free to use.


The Paperless Business Card

I have come up with a simple idea that will have a positive, global environmental impact. I’m talking about the end of the business card as we know it. Have you ever had a box of 500, maybe 1,000 business cards, handed out a few, then thrown the rest away when your title or contact info changed? Maybe you’ve done that a few times, or several. How much did that cost you? How did it impact the environment? How did you feel when you threw them away? What if no one ever did that again? Here’s a story about how we can make that happen. (more…)

Survey Hurdles And Incentives

I just quit another survey before completing it, this one from Rhapsody. I like Rhapsody, and I don’t mind giving them my opinions to improve their service (or even to keep it the same). However, my time is valuable, and I can’t waste it on sites that don’t institute the simplest of usability measures. For example, if I leave a question blank, and there is a very reasonable conversion for blank (like zero or n/a), don’t come back to me with “answer all questions properly.” They didn’t even highlight which question they had a problem with or what, specifically, was wrong. The second time I got that message, I just closed the tab. They said the survey would take 10-15 minutes. Well guess what? If you coded it nicely, it’d only take us 5.

This is similar to telemarketers who give phone surveys and, because of some stupid rule set up by their management, must tell you what the numbers 1 through 5 represent for every single question. At that point, I’m thinking 1 for slightly annoyed, 2 for really annoyed, 3 for angry, 4 for hanging up right now…

And offering a chance of winning a single $100 Amazon gift card (which seems to be a new survey standard) is really no incentive at all. If you really want to incentivize, why not say 100 people will get a free month of Rhapsody to Go? Wouldn’t that improve your image without costing you much, since it’s your survey to begin with?

Look, for many topics, I’m a guy who actually cares. I’m happy to give you my opinions and insights. Please stop making me care less.