We need to be very careful when talking about contexts.

We need to be very careful when talking about contexts — design decisions related to context must be based on fact rather than assumption. For example, a context-based assumption would be to change the language of a Web page in response to the location of a device — a terrible idea because the reader might speak a language that isn’t native to the detected country.

Source: Responsible Considerations for Responsive Web Design via @smashingmag

Why people don’t like carousels and what to do about it.

I got totally Baader-Meinhoffed last week with the accordion thing. Felt like flavour of the month, the way everyone wouldn’t shut up about it.

Actually it was just me and my colleagues having a rant. 🙂

In short:

People don’t like carousels, don’t care what they say
and don’t bother after the first panel
.

…so, for the ux-inclined, it’s frustrating that we still use them the way we do.

[B]oy does that homepage look like a juicy piece of prime real estate to a roomful of stakeholders. It’s hard to navigate these mini turf wars, so tools like carousels are used as appeasers to keep everyone from beating the shit out of each other.

via Carousels @ brad frost web

This ain’t a cry for blood, though. Typically, a design fails because of a combination of things – the medium, content and audience are incompatible. In the case of the humble carousel, we get the perfect storm of disharmony.

The Medium

Suppose your amazing marketing message is 4th in line on a carousel that spends 2 seconds per banner. This means the user will spend at least 6 seconds on filler before they get to your gold. That’s a long time in internet years.

The modern website carousel is like a TV ad break, only your favourite show won’t be back after those messages. Is this really the best way get users to pay attention and engage?

The Content

The write-ups on Nielsen’s Alertbox on Carousels and WeedyGarden’s Carousel Statssuggest that content can be a huge factor in carousels performing poorly.

After all, e-books and real paper books behave in the same way, sequentially feeding the audience one piece of information at a time – and most of us know how hard it is to put down a good book. This highlights the importance of storytelling in this space, something we tend to miss in the mish-mash of unrelated banners on a rotation.

Brian Krogsgard’s Sliders Suck says it could be totally appropriate to use a carousel when using the carousel is the end goal, not the means to the end.

The Audience

When a slider item is active, it’s more important than everything else on the page. When a slider item is inactive, it’s completely unimportant.

via Slide Rules @ Bearded Blog

The implicit assumption of a carousel is that the item on display will be relevant to the person viewing the page. I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir here, saying how one size does not fit all.

And we don’t have to look too deep into behavioural stuff (like banner blindness, tunnel vision and selective attention) or user agent stuff (like hardware capabilities, or compatibility with screen readers) to figure we might be slightly sub-optimal in catering for our users’ needs with sliding banners.

So, what do we do?

The tests say no to carousels, and you’ll find many, many voices in chorus about why. But sometimes we’ll have to use them, and sometimes we’ll actually want to use them – it’ll feel right, even though it seems wrong. We all have nights like this.

The problem isn’t in the doing, but in how it’s done. And we could be doing it less wrong.

Start this way:

  • Make the content more interesting. (source 1source 2Can’t stress this enough.
  • Limit the number of items in a carousel. (source)
  • Make the navigation obvious, so users can skip. (source)
  • Mind the interaction design stuff, don’t do the annoying crap. (source)

Thank you to @niaalist for sharing the links in this post.