Thursday, May 12, 2016

UX 104 (Part Four in a Series): Your Users Scroll…and Ignore Your Carousel


This post is the fourth in this series. Please also see UX 101, UX 102, and UX 103.

Clients regularly ask to provide as much information and content as possible “above the fold.” The “fold” is a concept introduced in newspaper publishing referring to the content the reader sees on the front page before they unfold their paper to read the news deemed slightly less important. So why are clients talking about the fold when referring to websites?

Many are just holding on to early beliefs about user behavior on the web. In the early days of the web, users were still getting acquainted with novel interactions common place to us today–pointing, clicking and most importantly, scrolling. Many clients still believe users don’t scroll and information placed on the page requiring scrolling will be lost to the internet ethers forever.

An early solution to that problem was the rotating content carousel; a widget displaying anywhere between 2-∞ pieces of content set to a timed rotation. Carousels seemed to solve the issue of providing important content in the limited real estate above the fold.

But as time went on, users became accustomed to the rotating carousel. Too accustomed. Now they ignore anything after the first featured item.


This isn’t the early days of the net anymore (goodbye Information Super Highway!). Research is proving that user behaviors are changing. They are scrolling below the fold (exhibit A, exhibit B, exhibit C, exhibit D, I could go on) and they seldom interact with anything past the first item in a carousel (Exhibit E, Exhibit F, Exhibit G, etc.)


The popularity of social networks like Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest have trained users to scroll through endless newsfeeds and encouraged news sites like Time and CNN to do away with rotating carousels and surface all content in a scrollable fashion.

The Takeaway

Social networks and popular news sites have moved on from carousels and you should too (Carousel ad mortem!). Your users will scroll. The trick is to give them a reason to first. Just follow this golden rule for the internet—content is king. Provide regularly updated content that is personalized and engaging and your users will scroll to see what’s next.


And if you’re still debating whether or not use a carousel, consult this handy website: