Why you don’t have to hate sliders

Andrea Ferguson

President at AndiSites Inc.
Andi is founder and President of AndiSites Inc. She writes about website design and development, best practices, and random stuff her busy brain thinks would be useful.
Andrea Ferguson

It’s okay to like sliders. Your clients do (or at least they keep asking for them), and–as is the case with a site we’re redesigning right now–users often like them, too (we didn’t make that up, the research supports it).  So why all the slider haters?  Why so many designers and developers saying that putting a slider on your site is tantamount to ruin, treason, or worse?

 

I agree that sliders are in general old-fashioned and a terrible way to drive conversions. They can also bloat the code and slow down page loading.  We dissuade our clients from them whenever we can. That said, I think the decision to include or not include design elements in any site should be individual to the situation, not just based on page load speed, SEO, or rules-du-jour.  Rules can be broken when the situation is well-served by elements that may be considered out of fashion (and no, I’m not suggesting we return to blink tags, although if the client wanted a vintage look I might throw them in for fun).  So here are my two cents on sliders:

 

BAD:

  • Using sliders to drive conversions (making users click on them to get more information, or to access products in an e-commerce scenario, or contact you)
  • Putting important information–or too much information–in a slider
  • Not being consistent with what’s displayed in a slider (one slide with text, then a video, then an image with no text other than a button
  • Using Flash
  • Using images with large file sizes

GOOD (or at least bearable):

  • Not using sliders to drive conversion–don’t make them clickable, and especially don’t require that people click something in a slider to get important information or complete a desired action
  • Keeping them simple…bold, striking images and limited, easy-to-read text
  • Keeping them all similar (no hopping from image to video to buttons)
  • Using optimized images (either by optimizing them with Photoshop or other editing software prior to loading, or using a plugin like WP Smush.it to optimize from within WordPress)

So when would it be okay to use a slider on your site (and why does AndiSites’ website use one)?

 

We believe a slider can work in a website design if its primary purpose is display only.  Portfolio items or photos work well in sliders, pretty pictures, that kind of thing. We chose to put a slider on our new site because we know from analytics that our users care most about our portfolio and the way we use imagery in our designs. The slider in our case doesn’t contain any information that can’t be found elsewhere on the site, it isn’t clickable (so driving conversions isn’t an issue), and it gives us a place to put pretty things that show our personality, our warmth, and our brand. On all screen sizes, the case studies are visible directly below, and the slider provides a nice visual transition between the nav and the case study/testimonials section. Also, a big part of our business last year was converting Flash websites, so it also gives us a way to showcase the use of jQuery/HTML5 to provide animation (there are still plenty of clients who think you have to have Flash to make things move…this shows them otherwise). Yes, we chose Revolution slider and it’s one of the slowest out there; however, it’s also been specifically requested by some of our largest clients, so having it on our own site gives us a way to learn more about it.

 

We try to make design and development decisions for good reason, and we understand the potential downsides.  Tools like YSlow and GTmetrix tell us how design choices affect the sites we build, then we can take steps to make them better.

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