Recently a client asked me about the effectiveness of a homepage banner.
“Well they’re used a lot for a reason” was my response. Although this was quite vague it was a summary of the overall effectiveness of homepage banners. They’re good. End of. But it did get me thinking, I know that they’re good – but just how good are they? So, as usual, I got to researching.
My inspiration came from sites such as ASOS.com that essentially have one large banner as the homepage with a well-designed navigation structure and a few KPIs. But go to just about any eCommerce site and the homepage is nearly guaranteed to feature a carousel - an auto-rotating panel, usually with some sort of small navigation, usually highlighting new product releases, sales or offers. It’s great for this, an area of well-utilised imagery for promotional purposes, often set in a standard format of 4 rotating banners sliding from left to right.
I’m not knocking them at all. Just like I said to my client – they’re used a lot for a reasons.
However, after researching I denoted a hypothesis that they might be something of a user interface (UI) cliche. It is important as the banner/carousel provides content that is delivered above the fold (see my blog post on scrollability for my belief and misconstrued view on what "the fold" actually is)
Do they look like advertisements? Are they skipped because they are expected within the design? What are the chances that the information being displayed in the carousel matches what the visitor is looking for? Does the banner provide anything bar a distraction to the real trigger of allowing them to continue their task? All questions that aren't conclusive in their answers.
The only study I found was here http://www.ojr.org/ojr/people/paulruel/200902/1639/ which provided conflicting evidence in that the moving images and quotation, most notably from the carousel, was found to be distracting but at the same time they agreed that the site's homepage was engaging and they were able to choose a story with ease.
What I am happy saying is that a carousel is exactly the right means to deliver content and so we need to try and importantly test every situation available. I'm still a big fan and if a client asked me the same again I would still respond with "they're used a lot for a reason" - notably because they deliver what they set out to deliver.