I screwed up....

Amarillo College Website Homepage


So,,,,I sort of screwed up,,,,,and the results of my screw up, while not done intentionally, prove my thoughts on slider carousels.

When the new look of the Amarillo College website launched, the first big carousel image on the homepage of the website stated that registration for Spring starts on November 10th. I realized this past Sunday (November 23rd) that the carousel image was still showing the message that registration starts on November 10th. My plan was to update this carousel image to say “Register Now” the day after registration started, but I somehow missed my reminder message. Doh?!

Okay? Why didn’t anybody tell us the carousel image needed to be updated during the 13 days it was overdue for a change? I look at the homepage elevently billion times a day, why didn’t I notice it?

This begs the question, are visitors seeing those big carousel images on the homepage? I think this reaffirms what I have stated in the past, while those carousel images are large, people don’t see them.

Why? Here are my thoughts:

I have done a few usability tests on websites that have sliding carousel images. I have found that that they are ineffective at delivering a message. For one, anything beyond the initial view has a huge decrease in visitor interaction. And two, the chances that the information being displayed in the carousel matches what the visitor is looking for is slim. So, in that case the carousel becomes a very large banner that gets ignored. In my usability tests, the first thing the visitor does when coming to a page with a large carousel image is scroll right past it and start looking for triggers that will move them forward with their task.

Jakob Nielsen (my usability hero) confirms this in tests. He ran a usability study where he gave users the following task: “Does Siemens have any special deals on washing machines?”. The information was on the most prominent slide. The users could not see it – totally hit by banner blindness. Nielsen concludes the sliders are ignored.

In my honest opinion, carousel images pushing a message really only work as an internal tool. They are effective only at being able to tell people in senior management that their latest idea or achievement is now on the homepage. They also are effective at delivering images (not messages) that website owners want their users to see so that the website is pleasing to the eye. On the Amarillo Humane Society website that I designed, the carousel sliders are just images, but they convey the message “adopt me!”.

Lesson learned? Let’s not assume that those big slider carousel images get a lot of attention. An important message should be there (at least to please the higher ups), but let’s not assume our visitors are seeing it.