A website study found that out of 3 million home page visits only about 1% clicked a carousel slide. How could a large, graphical element on the home page get such few clicks? The reason most carousels do poorly might surprise you.
Most carousels have multiple slides that rotate when users click the navigation arrow. The first slide always gets the most clicks. But the click-through rate for every slide after that will suffer a steep drop. The problem with the low click-through rate is not the carousel pattern itself, but the carousel navigation.
The navigation arrows on a carousel don’t give users an incentive to click. It fails because an arrow affordance doesn’t describe the information users get if they click it. They end up ignoring it and putting their attention on something else more informative.
An arrow affordance only tells them that there are more slides left, which isn’t important enough to click. As a result, they never see the other slides in the carousel. Not only that, but users often miss navigation arrows because they’re so small and placed near the edges of a carousel. With this design, it’s no wonder the other slides never get clicked.
Instead, what’s needed on a carousel is a clear, visible label navigation. Labels are informative, meaningful and describe what users want. Labeling each slide incentivizes them to click because the labels tell them what they’ll get.
Users are more likely to click on something that looks informative to them. A label navigation is also larger and placed in a more visible location than navigation arrows. It’s not only easier to see, but users know what to expect when they see it.
Most people would look at the results of that website study and think that all carousels are bad, and that you should never use them. But the truth is that most carousels are bad because they use an arrow navigation.
Arrow affordances aren’t information dense, text labels are. If you want more users to click your carousel slides, use a label navigation. Make your labels descriptive and meaningful and you’ll get more users clicking your other slides.