5 Reasons to Stop Using Carousels, Now

Motion on websites makes me sick. To me, automatic carousels are the equivalent of the GeoCities sites from 20 years ago that would start blasting you with some awful music on page load. The only people who liked the auto-music were the people who made the webpages, and the only people who like carousels are the content owners.

I’m not the first to lament this antiquated website trope. I’m particularly fond of yourcarouselsucks.com; the name says it all and provides a great example. The third slide proclaims:

“We have tested carousels many times and the results are crystal-clear: It is a poor way of presenting content and blocks website sales.”

The next slide demonstrates the first problem with carousels.

1) They move automatically

Oops, did the carousel move on before you could finish? That sucks, right?
Screenshot from yourcarouselsucks.com

When a slide moves forward, not only do I have to fight a wave to nausea, but I have to squelch my frustration with moving the carousel back to finish reading. And if it only has backwards and forwards arrows…

2) They don’t stop

More often than not, I encounter carousels that do not have a pause feature. When I was working with an agency during my company’s last redesign project, I had to point out their code was missing a pause feature—and this was a huge agency.

Some expect the user to click something non-pause-button-like to stop the carousel on a particular slide. Not intuitive, and not useful when you just want it to stop!

screen shot of the Zappos.com home page with a carousel
Screenshot: Zappos.com homepage

3) They have tiny hit areas

It’s common to use little, close together, almost hidden circles as a way to indicate how many slides are in the carousel and to allow the user to jump between slides. These hit areas are hard to click with a mouse, and maddeningly difficult not to fat finger on a phone or table. I frequently end up clicking or tapping the slide and get taken to another page when all I was trying to do was make the damn thing stop.

screen shot of the amazon.com home page with a carousel that has little white circles for navigating the carousel slides
Screenshot: Amazon.com homepage

4) They are plagued with accessibility problems

Even when carousels provide controls, they often do not work for users with disabilities. Take the below example from Sears.com.

Screenshot image of the homepage of sears.com showing a carousel
Screenshot: Sears.com homepage
  • The back and forward navigation controls are hidden unless you mouse over the slide
  • The ‘pause’ button has such poor contrast and is so small, it’s easily overlooked
  • There is no way to interact with the carousel controls using a keyboard
  • The markup used to construct the carousel does not identify it or have meaningful button text, there’s no way to skip it, and the rest of the slides and content are hidden
screenshot of what the Sears.com carousel looks like without CSS enabled
Screenshot: Sears.com carousel markup

5) No one likes them, other than your Marketing department

The most compelling reason to stop using carousels is that they annoy users and reduce visibility of your most important piece of page real estate.

Accordions and carousels should show a new panel only when users ask for it. Otherwise, it should stand still and let users read the information in peace, without having the rug yanked from under them.

Not convinced? Please do a usability study of your site’s homepage and let me know how it goes.

Sharing Images and Videos Isn’t Inclusive

A huge part of social media platforms is the ability to share images and videos. But I’ve yet to see one that takes people with visual impairments into account by enabling users to add alt tags and descriptions to multimedia assets.

Let’s look at Twitter for a moment. People more and more are using using images and the words within them to supplement their tweets.

The alt tag for all Twitter images is “Embedded image permalink”. Hardly descriptive or useful when every image has the same alt text. In the Tweet above, we see a cat but also words and meanings in the objects around him: a sign with YOLNT (you only live nine times); a book by Jonathan Frazen titled Freedom; and a bottle of Gordon’s gin. People who can’t see this image miss out on much of the intended meaning of the tweet.

In some instances, the entire purpose of the tweet is contained in the image. Look at this example from The Oatmeal where he has attached an image containing an entire comic. (Even providing a link to his website wouldn’t help because he does not provide alt text for his comics.)

Sharing platforms really need to enable users to provide alt text for images and descriptions for videos, even if they don’t choose to use them.

Twitter’s Mobile Site Sign In Form

Originally posted in 2014 to my personal blog. Twitter has since made some changes to its mobile form.

Today’s usability issue comes from Twitter’s mobile website sign in page.

screenshot of Twitter's mobile website sign in form
Twitter’s mobile site sign in page
My username was pre-populated because I have used the site on my phone before. I thought my password was also pre-populated, because the placeholder text Twitter uses in the password field is a series of dots, which look just like an obfuscated password.
Sign in form with password placeholder dots
Twitter’s password placeholder text

Thinking my password was already entered into the password field, I tapped the “Sign in” button. The page refreshed and I wasn’t signed in, but I didn’t see why, so I tapped “Sign in” again, thinking the site had a glitch.

 What actually happened was that I had not entered my password, and the error message on the page was located at the top in a light gray text, hardly noticeable, and resulting in frustration while I tried to figure out what was wrong.
screenshot of error message: Double-check your username and password and try again.
Error message at the top of the form

Two easy fixes Twitter should make

  1. Remove the dots as placeholder text from the “Password” field. They are not necessary and cause confusion. Placeholder text in form fields are harmful because it makes it hard for users to know what information they have already entered.
  2. Move the error message next to the field where the error occurred and make it obvious. By placing it at the top of the form, away from the “Password” field, and making it a light gray, it isn’t obvious for users.

In working on a quick mock-up of these improvements, I realized that Twitter developers likely added the placeholder text so that users would know where to type. Without the placeholder text, it’s not obvious. That said, adding placeholder text isn’t the best solution.

screen shot of sign in form with field labels to the left and error message incontext
Mock-up of changes Twitter could make to the mobile Sign In form

Though Twitter has made some changes, such as removing the dots as placeholder text in the password field, it continues to use placeholder text and the error message still displays above the form in hard to see gray text.

log in form without field labels
Twitter’s updated log in form