Kids love carousels. The circling painted ponies are fine childhood entertainment. But adding a carousel to your website is a serious mistake that will cost you customers and revenue.

How can we say this so definitively? After conducting hundreds of A/B tests on dozens of websites, we’ve never seen a carousel win a test. The worst offenders are those that auto-rotate rapidly, making the site visitor dizzy before they’ve had a chance to grasp your message.

We’re not the only ones who’ve observed this visual frustration. One  humorous example makes the point about carousels in just 30 seconds — though you may need to refresh the page several times in order to read the content. The usability pros at Nielsen-Norman Group wrote an entire article entitled “Auto-Forwarding Carousels and Accordions Annoy Users and Reduce Visibility.”

Why do home page carousels fail?

  • They look like ads, so people tend to skip them.
  • People browse the web seeking information, and they scan pages. The web isn’t a passive medium like TV; users want to decide what they read.
  • Auto-rotating carousels create a loss of control, which makes site visitors much more likely to leave.
  • Worse, rotating carousels create frustration in your users, so their first feeling toward your site and business is one of irritation. Probably not the effect you were trying to accomplish.
  • When people come to your home page, they spend just a few seconds scanning it to see if it’s what they want. If it passes this initial test, they’ll scroll down the page, not wait for the carousel to auto-rotate.

Here’s an insightful quote that pulls no punches:

“Almost all of the testing I’ve managed has proven content delivered via carousels [is] missed by users. Few interact with them and many comment that they look like adverts, so we’ve witnessed the banner blindness concept in full effect.  Use [carousels] to put content that users will ignore on your home page.”

Ouch.

What if the marketing team or CEO has their heart set on a carousel? Here’s how we respond:

  • “How else will they find the info on slide 2?” Few people will actually see slide 2, so the crucial information needs to be on slide 1. Typically you can get a 5-10% revenue increase by making the home page the first slide of the carousel.
  • “Our CEO wanted the information on slide 2 on the home page, and our creative agency wanted the information on slide 3 on the home page, and our VP Product Marketing wanted the info on slide 4 on the home page, etc.” Revenue is the bottom line. Cro Metrics can help various team members work together to come up with a site that optimizes for revenue at every stage of the funnel.

If the urge to ride the adult version of painted ponies is inescapable, Nielsen-Norman group provides some good usability guidelines. However, the carousels they describe are NOT generally used on the home page.

If you already have a carousel on your home page, Cro Metrics can help you set up a testing program to systematically increase your revenues. We’ve found that when there is a carousel on the home page, we can always get more revenue for our client by using static content. And if your friend, colleague or client has a carousel on their home page, forward this article to them as a favor — it’s one of the highest ROI actions they can take!