There’s been a lot of talk in the web design community over the past few years about the effectiveness of “sliders”; those images that change from one to another (and another, and another) at the top of many websites. We’ve debated the usefulness of sliders going back more than three years, but we’ll talk about that in a minute.
Your Electronic Sign
Driving to work each day I pass Custer Park, an excellent soccer facility in our community. Like many other businesses, they recently added a digital sign in front of their facility so they could easily share messages with people driving by. Also, like many other businesses, they seem confused as to how they should best utilize the sign.
(Custer park is used for a lot of YMCA soccer games; our local YMCA has issues with how to best utilize their website as well)
When driving by, you have time to glance over for perhaps a second or two and read a single screen. Their sign often simply says “Welcome to” or “Don’t miss”, with more information on subsequent slides (after you’ve driven past). The example to the right said “open play” and then went on to talk about volleyball in later slides if you stuck around, but all that most people would see is simply the words “open play” with no additional context.
Rather than focusing on their main message, they want to get out all of their messages and everything becomes diluted. It seems that businesses like Custer are expecting people to pull over and watch the entire series of slides go by, like Ashlea and Brooke are doing here:
The idea of someone sitting and watching the slides go by is ludicrous, to the point that we just had to take a picture to show how odd it would be. People obviously don’t do that.
Beyond the massive number of event-bases slides, this sign also has slides that show the current time. When I drive by, I have three clocks at my immediate view (dashboard, mounted cell phone, watch) and plenty of others in the car (laptop, tablet, etc). You get one chance to grab my attention as I drive by, and that’s what you show me?
Website sliders are the same way
Companies put sliders on their website because of the same faulty reasoning — they’re not sure what to say, so they try to say everything. Statistically, it’s a bad idea; sliders are clicked by roughly 1% of users, and 84% of those clicks are on the first one. That means that 0.16% of users will click on an internal slide, which is a huge waste of your time and effort and a big hit on your website loading speed for virtually no value.
I was at a meeting once and met an insurance agent whose pitch was something along the lines of “My name is Bob, and I can help you with health insurance, life insurance, auto insurance, homeowners insurance, renters insurance, liability insurance, flood insurance, pet insurance or anything you might need.” My first thought? This guy is an expert in nothing.
When you built your website, you had goals in mind (I hope). If you have an image at the top of the page, use it to reinforce what you’re wanting the user to do or learn.
The idea of an electronic sign isn’t to try to cram more content onto it, but simply make it easier to change out the content that is important. Instead of having to walk out and change out the plastic letters, you can update your message quickly from a computer. Use the electronic sign for easy updating to consistently push your top message, but don’t just try to cram everything in there.
If you have a website, you should treat it the same way — it’s very easy to add more slides and content, but you’re more wise to keep the choices limited to help users focus on what you want them to focus on.