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Prevailing Wisdom

 

Is IT time to kill the rotating banner?

by Bill Arnold
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I know for thousands of eCommerce companies, I just committed blasphemy. After all, isn’t it always best to showcase as many products as possible especially in your header? Well, NO it is not.

We will take a deep dive into why rotating banners are not the best way to showcase your products or services. We will show how you can capture a competitive edge by eliminating the rotating banner. We will examine ALL the reasons why the rotating banner needs to be killed.

However, we know that this will not dissuade 85% of banner users, so we will then examine how to mitigate the problems created by banners.  At the end of the day, many marketing/sales department are convinced that their rotating banner is different.

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HERO BANNER

Sliders are bad anywhere on your website, but they are particularly problematic when located where everyone puts them, on the front page, top and center, in the hero banner section. Of course, this is the area that does the most harm.

In many respects, the hero section is the most valuable real estate on your website. In many cases, it will make or break your chance to capture the imagination of the website visitor long enough for them to understand your unique value proposition.

The hero section of the website is the first impression your visitor will look at to judge who you are and to find out why they should care. It should convey the single most important message, and a call-to-action, that embodies why you are of value to them.  It is the opportunity to get them to take immediate action, or draw them in, so you can continue to nurture them with information that they will find valuable.

So why are rotating banners so ruinous?

 

1) Sliders Have Low Click Through Rates

Only 1% of the 3.7 million visitors to the University of Notre Dame's website clicked on a slider, across their entire site. That’s one percent engagement, with a key site element, across a massive, popular website!!! That 1% was on the first image.

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 2) Sliders are NOT SEO friendly

Load time is adversely affected, and Google has said ONLY the content that is shown when the site goes live is indexed. So only the 1st image and text is indexed by Google.

The load time is critical for both SEO and user experience. Sliders slow down the load time.

  • Alternating headings:  Wrapping multiple slider headings in h1 tags, means your page contains multiple h1 tags.  This changes the h1 tag with every slide change. This devalues keyword relevance.
  • Performance:  Carousels can slow your page load speed, which will affect your bounce rates and SEO (Google doesn’t like sending searchers to crappy pages). Multiple high-res images magnify this problem.
  • Content substitute:  Many home pages serve sliders in lieu of actual page content, likely in hopes of covering multiple personas. Light home page content will affect SEO rankings, in addition to the problems above. 
  • Sliders are NOT User Friendly:  Sliders are designed to show more content on the critical hero section. It is critical to share your best content.
  • Decision Fatigue:  Your site’s visitors are seeing too many offers when they enter your website. This forces them to compare and work to come to a conclusion. Your site is supposed to make a buying decision easy, not more complicated!
  • Banner Blindness:  Your site’s visitors have been conditioned to filter out anything that even looks remotely like an ad. Spoiler alert:  your pretty slider looks an awful lot like an ad. 
  • Confusing Visual Hierarchy:   A clear, visual hierarchy lets the visitor know what to click next. A slider confuses the user.
  • They are simply frustrating :  Don’t believe this is true? Click here for a demonstration…. I’ll wait. ........Back already? That was somewhat painful, wasn’t it.

3) Sliders are not Mobile Friendly

The fact of the matter is, sliders are almost never mobile friendly. Those sprawling, beautiful images you’ve got scrolling around with that ever-important CTA text? Get ready for that to shrink to microscopic size, rendering your message (and image) virtually non-existent.

Then, you must add in the nature of WiFi-less data surfing on a mobile device.

Websites already take ages to load on data plans, but imagine that phone having to pull up huge images through JavaScript while loading the rest of the site AND resizing the page (if it’s responsive).

Timing of Sliders is never optimized for user
  • Too Quick:  Sliders, that seem to give you two seconds between images, run the risk of not being comprehended at all. Think about those that are hard of sight, low of literacy, or aren’t natural English speakers. A quick-scrolling slider all but guarantees frustrated users and, ultimately, bounces from your site.
  • Too Slow:  To combat quick scrolling, some have opted to allow a generous amount of time to pass between images. The problem they face, though, is too much time passing, leaving the user to think the primary image is the only image. That leads to low/non-existent interaction with images that follow the primary one.
  • Loving it - Then it's gone:  How many times are you on a banner that you are enjoying or trying to learn more and it rotates away? No matter the speed of the rotation, you will never find the right mix that works for most of your web visitors.

 4) Behavioral Science has Proven Rotating Banners are Bad 

Stanford University Professors did a study on motion and the impact on our attention. Their findings were that our primitive survival instincts cause us to focus on motion. This means we are not paying attention to the words in the banner nor the text below it. Our attention is continually drawn to the motion itself.

 5) UX/UI Experts Agree - Carousels Don't Work 

Often, if you put ten UX/UI experts in the room, you will get ten opinions. But, this is not the case for rotating banners. If you are reading this blog, no doubt you have used Google to find out about best practices for sliders. You already know that the over whelming majority of UX/UI designers (who are metric driven), SEO experts, and marketing experts ALL agree that carousels do not help increase sales or conversions.

I could list a dozen more reasons why rotating banners are harmful to your Marketing/Sales Success.

However, the vast majority of those using sliders are not going to change. Internal company politics (each division wants to be in the slider) or merely the fact you think it looks cool, means you simply must make the best of a TERRIBLE decision. 

Rotating Banner Alternatives:

                                              1) Use a Static Image with a Clear message and Call-To-Action

There is no dispute that Sephora does an extremely effective job with online marketing of their cosmetics and skincare products. At the time of this writing, they were the best of their class with respect to online traffic, unique visitors, and website engagement

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What is interesting about Sephora is their marketing did test both rotating banners and visitor directed rotating banners. While I am not privy to their test results, it is safe to assume that they opted for the header that had the best conversion and sales results, which is a stagnate image with a clear concise message (SHOP NOW), and CTA.

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                                                                                   2) Stop the Automatic Rotation

If you must use a rotating banner, the second-best option is to use one that allows the website visitor to control the rotation. A visitor directed banner allows the user to decide when they are ready to move on to the next image or if the image they are viewing addresses their pain point, interest, or concerns.

An earlier version of the Sephora website utilized a self-controlled banner.

 

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                                                                                     3) Divide and Conquer

 

There are many sites that have had very successful results by having the header share two or more stagnant images with their own unique messaging and call-to-action.

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Olympique Facade had an equal need to showcase their existing building expertise and that of their new construction. Since both divisions require equal marketing support, the solution was to allow both to have prominence on the home page banner.

 4) Accordion Slider

Well down the list, in the number 4 slot, (but still better than a rotating banner) is to use a fully responsive and touch-enabled accordion slider where each section has an image and text visible on main home page.

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For this to have ANY advantage over the rotating banner, the home page must load showing each panel. Each panel must have the relevant keywords for each section visible. Remember, Google has said ONLY the content that is shown when the site goes live is indexed, so it is imperative that each section has the text to be indexed by Google.

Rotating Banner Recommendations:

As I said in the beginning of this blog, the vast majority of those who are using rotating banners are simply going to cry heresy and continue with its use. However, since you are still reading this, you have some doubts, so I will reward the good behavior by giving you two recommendations that will help your ill-advised quest to continue using rotating banners.

                                                                                             1) BigCommerce

If you are an eCommerce company, you have a number of choices about which platform is best optimized for eCommerce success.  We will be sharing our thoughts in a future blog. BigCommerce understands that rotating banners can kill the load time on mobile devices. For mobile devices, BigCommerce is rolling out a feature that will have the secondary banner images load only after the first banner and website is loaded. This will help with both the user experience and improve mobile load times.

                                                                                           2) Be Like Sephora

Take the time to prove me wrong.  Set up an A/B test comparing conversion and sale results using your rotating banner against a stagnate image that has a clear message and call-to-action. 

Contact us, if you would like recommendations on best practices for setting up that A/B test or simply want to discuss or debate the merits of rotating banners.

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