Data Driven Business

11 years ago
How to Confuse and Frustrate Your Home Page Visitors

As Conversion Optimization Professionals, our job is to identify components of websites that are hurting the company’s conversion rates and revenue.

In some cases, where the site has already been tested or happens to be well-planned, we have to dig deep in our bag of tricks to develop the test plan.

Other times, the site gives us a gift with components that are common conversion killers. One of the most common of these gifts is the home page slider banners.

We love slider banners! They give us lots of great opportunities to easily beat the Control page with our newly designed test Variations.

Should I use a rotating home page slider banner?
That’s a question I’m often asked when I present at conferences and webinars. Unfortunately for the questioner, they are addressing a common cause of Relevance, Clarity and Distraction problems. (Note: For more information on these and the other three Conversion Rate Factors, read up on the LIFT Framework that we use to analyze landing pages)

I decided to visit an arbitrary sampling of home pages recently and found nearly all of them featuring some form of a gallery rotator.

Now, I’ll preface the remarks below by saying that there are some excellent uses for a rotating gallery. For example, to actually display a gallery of images.

It can work well for photographers, interior designers or fashion models, but not for most conversion–oriented websites.

We have tested rotating offers many times and have found it to be a poor way of presenting home page content.

Home page sliders are all over the place
These sliders are showing up in all industries. It’s like web designers are all working off the same playbook.

My first example is the home-page rotating banner.

Notice that each banner has small white boxes in the lower-right corner that indicate how many messages are being rotated. Each banner also has a small “Learn More” link, but these are white and barely visible on top of some of the images.

Next, consider the home page and its rotating banners.

There are no indicators of how many messages will load or which one is coming next and you have no warning that it’s going to slide.

Let’s think about your visitor’s experience for a moment.

  • She arrives on your home page and needs to orient herself to your layout in order to decide which information to zero in on. A strong, page-dominant banner with a headline and bold image is where she’s likely going to start her focus.
  • Unfortunately, the message in that banner usually isn’t relevant to what she’s looking for. Why? The marketing department is featuring current events, offers and news that may be important to some department within the organization but not to the majority of the visitors.
  • In the lucky event that your visitor sees an offer that looks interesting to her, she will want to read a little more about it. But, just as she’s gathered the motivation to click through and learn more… the rotator switches to the next offer.
  • What happens now? She’s confronted with a second offer and now has to decide whether to focus on reading it or to go back to the previous. She’s feeling some frustration and disorientation at this point.
  • f she decides that the first offer was what she really wanted to see, how does she get back to it? She has to figure out the usability of this gallery. The Art Director surely would have made it easy to navigate back and forth between the offers, right?
  • Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case. Your beleaguered visitor may have to locate a tiny row of dots or squares hidden among the bold, colorful photos in the offer onslaught.
  • You can, I’m sure, empathize with her likely reaction, which is to bounce off the site in frustration.

IBM’s example is particularly egregious because their messages are obscure. What are they talking about? I won’t have time to find out before it switches to the next one.

The Politics of Home Page Design
The root of the your home page design problem may not lie solely with your Art Director, though.

The problem may be with an organization that is not clear on its business goals, marketing goals and website goals. When organizational politics, inter-departmental jockeying for position and lack of customer-orientation trump Clarity of your Value Proposition, an offer gallery emerges.


It is the only way your Art Director has found to give all of the competing messages equal priority in the limited home page space.

To avoid this problem:

  1. Begin your website evaluation with a strategic website planning exercise to prioritize your website goals and Conversion Optimization opportunities
  2. Commit to controlled, statistically valid testing on your most important website pages, templates and marketing landing pages
  3. Bring in third party Conversion Optimization experts to help you win the organizational buy-in you need to be a Marketing Optimization Champion

So, what’s on your home page?

Chris Goward founded WiderFunnel with the belief that digital agencies should prove the value they bring. They’ve developed conversion optimization programs for clients like Google, Electronic Arts, SAP, and Shutterfly. His new book,”You Should Test That,” published by Wiley in 2013 redefines conversion optimization and shows how to create dramatic business improvements and gain marketing insights. You should find out about his company, WiderFunnel, and follow him on Twitter at @chrisgoward

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