When promoting multiple items on a homepage a carousel may seem like the right way to go, but there is research done to prove that there are better alternatives to carousel images. Carousels are great to enable more than one piece of content to have the same front page space, but in brief, carousels are typically ignored by users, don’t engage users, and frustrate users.
A study conducted by the Nielsen Norman Group concluded that users “never look at anything that looks like an advertisement, whether or not it’s actually an ad.” Objects like carousels typically look like ads to users and will fall prey to banner blindness. A study conducted on Notre Dame University websites showed that user engagement rapidly declined for each feature, from 40% user engagement for the first feature to 18% for the second feature. In usability tests conducted by the Nielsen Norman Group, participants frequently failed a task even though the target was the first item on the carousel. The website being tested was offering a discount on one of their items through an offer displayed as a carousel item on the top of the page and the user’s task was to determine if the website owner was offering a discount on their product. The offer was the first item on the carousel in large font, and the carousel took up most the space on the top of the home page. Nonetheless, the user ignored the carousel, didn’t see the offer, and ultimately failed the task.
Carousels, specifically auto-forwarding carousels, add complexity to users in terms of usability and accessibility. Auto-forwarding carousel images cause difficulty with users of lower motor skills who find it hard to click on something quickly enough before it goes away. Low literacy users and users whose native language is not the same as the site’s language will have more trouble reading rotating images.
Shifts Relevant Content Out of Sight
Large carousels, especially full-width carousels, will push content that is relevant to the user further down the page. This is true now with full width images on the home screen by comments user make such as “it makes me feel like Yale doesn’t want me to do my work.” A rotating carousel lessens the probability that a user will see the content that you are wanting to promote, since users don’t typically sit and scroll through each feature.