Do you use a rotating banner on your website?

Then recent research by Stanford University may be of interest to you.

Stanford University researchers have just released a study showing the effects of rotating banners and website popularity. It is not the glowing report that website designers may have hoped for. What seemed like the perfect answer to grabbing viewer attention and providing information rich content, turns out to be driving away potential customers.

For years psychology studies have told advertisers to maximize white space to allow the viewer time to absorb the message. It has been said that the advertiser has seconds to get the message to the consumer. And the key to getting the message across is to have the most important information above the fold. The rotating banner seemed the perfect solution to share a lot of information in the least amount of time and space. Everything important was delivered in the prime location and allowed for the all-important white space.

Rotating Banners Trigger Motion Sensitivity …
But is That Good or Bad?

When rotating banners on homepages (also known as sliders or carousel banners) were first introduced to the viewing public, all psychological indicators showed that people have “an exquisite sensitivity to motion”. They seemed the perfect answer for reaching the masses, so the developers put together a system where the message is displayed briefly before another messages is delivered in timed intervals. The start and stop pattern was found to be most effective because the human brain notices movement as a protective instinct. The rotating banner became the design trend of trends.

Rotating Banners on Websites Proven To Trigger Fight or Flight

But…and this is the big but of the whole formula … the reason the human brain is instinctually drawn to the motion, is that the motion also sets off the fight or flight reaction. Unknowingly, websites designed with the rotating banner, no matter how cheery or informative, have been creating an environment of instinctive distrust! Eye-tracking research found that visitors were purposefully avoiding the banner even when the information they sought was in the banner. Once this distrust was triggered the user reasoned that the banner must be advertising.

Visitors Need Control Over Rotating Banner Usability

When the Nielsen Norman Group tested the rotating or carousel banner, the majority of their focus group reported that they didn’t have time to finish reading the message; that it was flashing too quickly and was annoying.

Many in the test group would see something of interest but did not have time to link to the information.

Researchers found that people need a sense of control of their environment and that rotating animated banners undermines their sense of control. When the animation in the rotating banner was converted to viewer slide controls, engagement levels increased significantly.

The key take away was that visitors need control over their web experience to develop trust.

Remember, the Banner Occupies Prime Real Estate

Carousel or Sliding Banners are still very popular so this will become a hotly debated design element.

You may find yourself weighing two valid points when it comes to the best rotating banner designs:

  1. The banner occupies prime real estate and  allows for the maximum information distribution
  2. Motion (rotation) draws attention

Rotating Banner Best Practices

So how you can capitalize on this but still adhere to the latest research? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Get rid of auto-advance. Allow the visitor to advance the images at their own pace. The movement in your banner will attract instinctive attention and viewer controls will instill trust by allowing the visitor to advance at their pace and by their choice.
  2. Like a newspaper, create a hierarchy of value on your site. Opt for the long home page with large graphics and short linking text to points or articles of relevance.
  3. Make changes and track conversions. This is all about making your website more user friendly and not about winning design awards for cleverness. At the end of the day, would you rather have a clever website or a website that got you 5 new customers?

The Key Takeaway 

You need to spend your web development budget on elements that bring solid relevance and build trust – a design that allows your user to stay and think about what your have to offer will do just that.

Unsure about your web design and how your visitors are responding to it? Talk to one of our Conversion Optimization consultants today for advice or call us at 1-888-262-6687.