I have visited over 400 websites for solar installers in Australia.
What struck me was how many websites had a slider above the fold on their homepage.
So I started documenting it.
It turns out it was over a whopping 42%!
Then I started thinking, why do many websites have a slider?
Does it actually work?
After I finished my research, I realised that it was a No.
A slider (sometimes referred as a carousel), is a slideshow of images often with animations between transitions and a heading on each slide.
Out of all the sliders I saw (some were not working), below is a breakdown of the different messages that the website was trying to portray.
It’s clear that the sliders are used for a variety of purposes. The most common use was using it as a showcase for selling residential and commercial solar.
Here’s an example of a typical conversation between the solar business owner and the website designer (Sometimes they are the same person).
I want my website to show that we sell everything from residential solar, commercial solar to batteries, etc.
I also like animations. Make it look clean.
Designer comes back with a 3 image slider:
How about this? We have a dedicated image for each service we provide. The visitor can click on whichever one they want to buy.
I can understand the lure of a slider. You can fit many pieces of information into a tiny real estate on the page.
It can be clean and tidy.
I’m also not against a little animation to capture visitor’s attention.
But I think there are far better ways of displaying the necessary information.
Your above the fold content on the home page needs to answer two questions from a visitor within 2 seconds:
Do you really need 3 images to answer that question? With each image shown for 3 seconds, it’s going to take around 9-10 seconds for a visitor to get their questions answered. That’s a luxury most websites don’t have.
Can you answer these questions easily and efficiently with a single image and a title?
Yes, you certainly can.
This is explored later.
A study done by the Notre Dame University shows that the click through rate of a slider is 1%.
Out of that 1%, 84% was on the first slide.
This shows that slides after the initial image receive negligible exposure and clicks.
If the data shows such a large drop off, is having a slider worth it?
One of the main goals on your solar website should be to convince as many visitors into becoming subscribers or customers as possible.
Each time that happens, that is known as a conversion.
Here we see a study done by Orbit Media that shows a slider (They have coined it slideshow) has a 1.66% conversion whereas a single static image has a conversion rate of 4.85%.
If you’re still unsure whether this applies to your website, I encourage you to try and test this hypothesis.
Humans have developed into having an attention span of a goldfish.
It may be as short as 2 seconds as found by conversioner.
If you do not manage to answer the two main questions above the fold, your visitors will leave.
When they do, Google uses that as a signal that your website did not answer their question. As a result, your search rankings drop as a result of them leaving.
If the user does remain on the site, they will likely scroll down further to get to know more about your site.
It is rare that a visitor stays above the fold to ponder whether you can solve their problem.
In order for a slider to work, your visitor's browser needs to download a few images. That’s the nature of a slider.
Compared to text, each image is large and takes up a high percentage of bandwidth. If not sized well, images also become pixelated. When this is above the fold, browsers usually need to download the entire slider before being able to display the first image.
The more a page needs to download or display, the longer the page takes to load. This affects user experience and google rankings.
Besides the images, animation usually requires extra coding. For a solar website built with Wordpress, this usually means downloading other plugins. Each additional plugin adds complexity and additional coding. The ones with the most functionality are usually the bulkiest. The plugins built with minimal code generally allow for least customisation.
Worse, if not configured optimally, some sliders will load only after the whole page is rendered.
In 2018, mobile traffic accounted for over half of all web traffic. This is likely to increase.
Most websites are viewed in portrait via mobile. With such a small width, sliders become difficult to see.
This is especially true when the designer doesn’t reduce size of arrows or change heading size. The following is an example highlighting why sliders and mobiles don’t really mix.
The fix to this is to remove the slider on mobile, and replace that with a single image. If this is not implemented well, the slider may still need downloading, and just hidden in the mobile browser.
Once again, this increase page load times.
Furthermore, Google attributes a much higher importance on mobile load speed versus desktop. If you download many images, that will slow down the site even further.
That’s a lot of arguments against having a slider on your solar website.
But can they actually work?
Yes, sliders can work.
They may work for other business and industries such as Ecommerce. Amazon.com and Ebay.com are great example of it working.
One of the reasons it may work for them is that their website visitors likely return visitors. Return visitors are more familiar with your brand, website, and may stay around longer than the average.
But your solar website is not at the size of Amazon or Ebay.
Other giant companies also do not have a slider. Take for example, facebook.com, twitter.com and Google’s product page:
If you really must have a slider, perhaps consider having a slider for your testimonials. Although this is something I may not design myself, I’m not against this.
The reason is that your testimonials are most likely below the fold, and your visitors will have scrolled already.
This means you have at least answered both their questions of, “Does your product solve my problem?” and “Can I trust you?
Before changing your above the fold content, take a moment and think about who your target audience is. Are they commercial solar customers? Residential solar customers?
Create a compelling headline that speaks to your target customer. Your headline should be short, succinct, and contains your unique selling point (USP).
Next, accompany your headline with a call to action and an image that complements your headline.
The slider on your front page converts less, is not a good user experience, and takes longer to load. Although it may work for some industries or companies, it is unlikely to work well with a solar website.