Posted by Michael Gaigg
I'm not a big fan of the (auto-)rotating banner carousels but I have never been really able to articulate why. So I looked beyond my personal taste horizon and found two excellent points of view by my colleagues Neal Dinoff and Art Zippel.
Neal Dinoff (Esri Marketing Analytics Manger) offers some quantitative insights:
Most people visit a website with a specific objective. They scan the homepage for any link they believe will get them closer to accomplishing their objective. Few stay on a homepage long enough to view a slideshow. Using the CrazyEgg analysis of click timing on the Esri.com homepage, the majority of visitors click a homepage link within 5 seconds. Our homepage slides rotate every 7 seconds. That means most visitors to Esri.com never see the second and third slide in rotation. At a conference I recently attended, IBM’s web metrics analyst confirmed their site had the same problem.
and Neal continues talking about organizational motivations of including carousels and explains that
Organizations like homepage slideshows because it's a way of placating everyone who desperately believes their special interest deserves/requires homepage presence. From the user's perspective, they are generally worthless. They don't solve a user problem or meet a user need. Homepage slideshows are usually the opposite of user-centered design.
Arthur Zippel recently shared an article with a video (5 minutes) talking about how typefaces directly affect readability. As a result Art started looking at autorotating banners from the behavioral side and whether similar effects would apply and add to distraction and overall loss of comprehension:
Because my primary focus here at Esri is the website I'm curious if there is any correlation with the findings in their very specific study and comprehension. We know that website visitors scan content when they are on a web page even when they are on a desktop with no fear of crashing their chair into their coffee cup or being pulled over by the office texting police. We know that distractions play a large role in attention, and that attention plays a large role in comprehension. I think autorotation banners make it more difficult for users to focus on page content because they create a distraction away from page content.
Knowing this, it is worth considering that if, one of the primary reasons for autorotation banners are a desire to manage minimal screen real estate, then is it the most effective solution? From a user-experience perspective, it think the widespread use of autorotation banners is interesting. Based on specific content on a page (link) a user indicates a desire to see additional specific content only to be presented with a distraction (autorotation banner), this doesn't seem like a completely successful experience. And with Halloween coming up, might I say it could even border on diabolical and horrific 😉 Remember, this is an intentional action on the point of those who manage websites.
I am constantly reminded that a widespread, common, popular practice by very large companies has absolutely no intrinsic correlation to UCD best practices. If you believe that companies always conduct valid testing for what they put on a website and that what they deploy is transferable to all other companies and their goals, then I have a bridge for sale.
- Build a meaningful site structure and navigation architecture.
- Provide relevant headers and content.
- Use and show links that speak to the user's intention for visiting the site.
- Spare the huge banner images in favor of smaller, more focused teaser pics.
- Avoid thinking in organizational terms aka we need to satisfy manager XYZ and put up a nice banner image about his cause.
- Stop thinking about what could be interesting to your users but rather identify the context in which your target audience looks for something on your page and how they arrived (through search engine, direct mailing, etc.)
Tim Ash offers even more reasons: Rotating Banners? Just Say No!
What are your Thoughts/Experiences?
Michael Gaigg is Lead UI Engineer in Esri's Professional Services Division.
He has been designing map applications for 15 years and is author and curator of UI Patterns for Maps.
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