Content Sliders : Pros, Cons and Tools
Content sliders or carousels – some people love them, others hate them. What is clear is that there are a whole load of them out there and they’re not going away any time soon. So, should you be using one on your site?
Content sliders add a dynamic element to your website, with the right choice of images they can look amazing and they’re an easy way to add some “whistles and bells” to your design but, as we know, form over function is never a good route to go down. They’re also useful for displaying a lot of content using the minimum of space, however if no thought has gone into what you want people to do with that content, that space could be wasted.
The first question you should ask yourself when making your decision is the same when using any new tool – what do I want to achieve with this?
The best uses we’ve seen of content sliders are generally on the front page of a website. They’re well designed, largely image based with sparse text and they act as an ‘elevator pitch’. Used in this way to deliver a quick, snappy, well positioned summary of a company’s core offering, the content slider is hard to beat.
The key here is to keep it slick and simple. Limit the number of slides to a maximum of five or six, less if you can condense your message down that far, and choose your content carefully. Images should be crisp, clever and relevant; copy concise and punchy.
If you want to use a slider to highlight your website’s latest offers or best content, you need to think very carefully about implementation. Yours isn’t the first website your user has ever visited, so they come armed with expectations. One of those is that rotating, flashy images are trying to sell them something and because of that they’ll have what is known as banner blindness which could have the effect of lowering your conversion rates. If your slider is designed to sell, it might not be the best choice.
One way of keeping the ability to display multiple messages in a limited space without succumbing to banner blindness is to switch off the auto-rotate function and hand control over to the user, allowing them to click back and forth as they wish. Put your key message up front on the first slide, less important information on those that come after and give your user large, clear navigation tools so they know what is expected of them.
In either case, keep checking your stats to make sure that your users are finding the content you want them to and if they’re not clicking through, rethink your content strategy.
Things get ugly with content sliders when they are badly designed. We’ve seen some truly horrible content carousels in our time which neither look pretty nor function well. In some instances this has been because the developer wrote a shoddy plugin, in others because a perfectly good slider has been put to poor use.
Here are the content slider crimes we see most often:
- The slides are overloaded with text – the website equivalent of the most tedious Powerpoint you can think of.
- The slides move so fast the user develops sea sickness trying to keep up with them. If you can’t read the content before the next slide whooshes in, you’re doing it wrong.
- Using a slider as the main means of navigation. This is bad etiquette. When a visitor comes to your site, they need to have control and they need to find the information they want quickly. If you make them wait for their link to come round again because they missed it the first time, they’ll navigate off elsewhere.
- The images are huge, making the page load slowly, or fuzzy because they’re too small and have been scaled up. Know what height and width works best with your slider and make sure you compress your images before uploading them.
So, if you’ve read all of that and have decided that you do indeed want a slider for your site but have a WordPress theme that doesn’t already include one, what are your options? Here are a few of our favourites:
WooSlider – We are big fans of the guys over at WooThemes and the love continues when it comes to this plugin. It’s a great entry level slider, comes bundled with lots of options and is responsive for use on smartphones and tablets. Even better, WooSlider is now available to all Helpful Webhosting clients free of charge! Get in touch for more information.
For those of you who want a slider that does a little more in terms of animation, we have two options for you:
Layer Slider – A highly customisable parallax effect slider that is responsive and has touch control for smart phones and tablets. You can see it in action here
As ever, if you need any more information about implementing any of these solutions on your website, do not hesitate to get in touch.