Sliders (almost always) suck.
Why? Let me count the ways:
Sliders add bloat to a website. Most rely on jQuery and the slider script. Also, most sliders load all of the images or other information that is to be displayed in the slider on the initial page load. So if your slider is 1000px by 600px, and you have four images in the rotation, you are loading four huge images on that page load.
That better be some valuable content in those sliders, or you are wasting valuable time before your page properly loads. What happens when your page takes more time to load? People leave before looking at anything at all, much less your fancy slider.
So, consider speed when choosing a slider, if you must have one.
2) Sliders are not for action
When I hear clients express that they want a slider, they usually want it for the wrong reasons. Sliders, in my opinion, are only valuable for display purposes; they are not good for action taking.
Think how you use the web. Do you load a web page, and watch a slider scroll all the way through every item, and wait to click on the thing you like best? I hope not. Most of us want to be able to quickly and easily get to where we want to go.
With a slider, you either have to wait to see what comes along, and then click through to a destination URL from the slider’s call to action. Or you have to tab through with the slider’s controls, and then click again to go to the destination url of the slider. This is more work, and I don’t think many people are going to take that sort of action.
3) Sliders are not good for mobile
We’re so focused on targeting our websites to mobile visitors these days. Yet, we’re just as committed to the slider as ever. Why? The slider will slow down load times for mobile websites (just imagine those load times with 3G or less!) and are even less usable on a phone.
A good slider, like Flexslider, will have support for swiping, but it’s still not a logical action for someone on a phone. Scrolling is so simple, why not let people just scroll through the page to see your important content instead?
4) What fold?
The fold is dead. Keeping content above the fold is the primary reason I hear from people that want a slider. Stop it.
Don’t even get me started on all the distractions I see in sliders. You’ve seen them in commercial themes. Huge box shadows. Crazy blocks that flip all over the page on rotation. Ken burns. I just cried typing that.
Why are we still using sliders?
Probably a few reasons here too:
- Because it’s the easy way out in design
- Clients ask for them
- Ooh, it moves.
If you must slide
If you must use a slider, use it for display purposes, and preferably not on the homepage.
Because you want the homepage to load fast. Really fast. Google likes that. People like that.
The link above to Chris Lema’s post on slider performance indicates that the best performing slider can load in as little as half a second; but the slowest performers were almost five seconds. Yuck!
Appropriate places for sliders:
- Showcasing product photos – multiple images of the same thing. Not a convoluted mess.
- Showcasing a gallery of images for a portfolio. Same idea. Multiple images of the same concept.
- Display, display, display. Where the looking at the slider is the end goal, not an avenue to get to the end goal.
Notice the pattern? Keep your sliders in sync if you use them. Each slide should represent something of an overall topic for that slider. Don’t have a homepage slider where the first image is a banner for an event, the next one for your services, and the third a banner for your contact form. That’s too much. Give those items the real estate they deserve, don’t force them into one little box in a rotating pattern.
Please, please, do me a favor and only use simple fade effects if you insist on a slider. And try to include thumbnail navigation and pagination overlays too, to make it easy to get around. The pictures or slider content should do the talking, not some crazy effect or over-done styles on the container.
The slider I’m using as the banner image on this post is a good example of a nice slider. It’s using a fast script, has thumbnail navigation and directional navigation. And it’s showcasing pictures of a single space, so it’s all one theme. If you must slide, slide like this.
Also, if you include a call to action for your slider, I recommend only having one, and make it visible on each slide. That way, the images in the slides are still for display, but the call to action is the same on each; this way the user doesn’t have to find the right slider to go to the next step. Whether your call to action is a form, a click, or whatever, don’t have a different one on each slide. If you feel like you need a different call to action for each slide – rethink your use of a slider.
And never, ever let the slider be the only content on the page. People, and Google, like words. Give them words and descriptive text. A Slider alone is not enough.
You are free to disagree with me about proper usage of sliders. But I’ve seen these things for so long, it’s going to take a heck of an argument to change my mind! Bring it on.