Image sliders, slideshows, or carousels are a mistake for just about any website and in the case of psychotherapy websites, they are also not a great idea.
Therapists should not have image sliders on their psychotherapy website. This post will go into why and the best alternatives that you can consider.
The Two Types of Image Sliders
There are two types of image sliders that I’ve seen frequently used on psychotherapy websites. One is the just-image slider, where there is an automatically rotating set of images. About once every second or half second, there will be another image displayed. Once the end last image in the stack is shown, it circles back around to the first slide. The loop is endless.
The other type of image slider combines an image with text and sometimes a link or button as well. So in this type of image slider there’s both an image in addition to text and links.
Both types of sliders are typically seen on the home page of a website, automatically slide through images, and in most cases there are some type of minimal controls like left and right arrows or dot navigation. Both image only and image with text types of image sliders are problematic.
Problems with Image Sliders
1. Sliders are distracting.
Things that move grab more attention than things that don’t. And often times images grab more attention than text. So, put both moving images and text together and you’ve created something that really grabs attention. But then you have to ask, “is this slider where my website visitor’s limited attention ought to go?” Instead asking for your website visitor’s attention to go towards images sliding around with effects and pretty pictures, it may be better to focus their attention on taking the steps to becoming your clients.
2. Sliders don’t convert your website visitors into clients.
Sliders don’t convert. If you are putting calls to action in the slides, there are studies that show that only 1% of visitors will click on a slide. Many advocates of image sliders falsely believe that image sliders will give visitors the opportunity to see multiple calls to action in a relatively short amount of time and move them into action. But the all of the research shows that this is not the case. The best approach on your website and in your greater online marketing is to use your empathy to get really clear and focus on your target audience with a message you’ve crafted to speak to them.
3. Sliders want your visitors to wait (and they won’t wait).
Visitors are in pain looking for a solution and they can’t wait. If they see an image in the show that catches their interest, it’s quickly taken away from them. They then have to wait for that slide to come back around or panic and figure out how to use clumsy arrows or dot navigation to find it again. If the first slide isn’t interesting, they won’t wait for the other slides to come around, and will move on to other parts of your website. Website visitors won’t sit and wait for a 20 second slideshow. They are trying to answer the question, “Is this the right therapist to help me with my suffering?” and the answer, “here’s a slideshow” is not the answer they are looking for.
4. Sliders are out of a website visitor’s control.
Ok, so, you feel completely out of control in your relationship. Your life partner just cheated on you, your dog died, and you can’t seem to get any sleep. You’re up at 4 am surfing the internet looking for a therapist to help you get through this difficult time. You arrive on a therapist’s website to find a large image slideshow. It’s going by very quickly and there are no obvious controls to stop it or slow it down. Is this website feature helping you feel more calm or is it an extension of feeling out of control and overwhelmed? Content just passing you by? To some website visitors, a slider will trigger their feelings of being overwhelmed and out of control. This is bad for user experience and website usability. Your visitor is already feeling like their life is out of control, don’t give them a website experience that is also out of their control.
5. They aren’t always mobile friendly.
Having a mobile friendly website is super important. Having a mobile website is not a trend, it’s a necessity. And unfortunately, many sliders don’t work well on mobile devices at all. They may not scale well, they may be very sluggish, or they may be made with something called flash which is not even compatible with mobile browsers. Making sure our website provides a good experience on all screen sizes is vital to our website’s success.
6. They may negatively affect SEO.
Sliders can come with a heavy amount of code which slows page loading. On top of that, bad markup can negatively impact your website’s search engine optimization, the chances of it coming up organically in search engine results pages. There’s research that backups the fact that sliders are bad for SEO. When you are considering the design and functionality features to include on your psychotherapy website, why choose something that has a chance of hurting the search engine optimization?
The Best Alternatives to Sliders
Static image with text next to it.
One great alternative to an image slider is to have a static image, that is, an image that is not moving. Finding one single image and putting text next to, or underneath your page headings is a great way to use visual and verbal communication. This is probably the easiest approach.
Static image with text over.
Another great alternative to an image slider is to think of that same place on your page as a single slide. So for instance, use an image with headings and a link or button over it. The challenge with this approach is making sure that the text is still readable. No point in trying to have a fancy image if all it does is make your website visitor strain to read the text. So ensuring there is enough contrast between the image and the text is vital. But if you can get this right, it can have a deep impact on your website visitor by using both visual and verbal communication well.
Depending on your website strategy you may also consider putting a video, maybe an intro video for instance, where you might have thought to put an image slider. Video is a great way to reach your website visitors.
Do What Makes Sense
Don’t fall for website trends. Do your homework. Do what makes the most sense for your website visitor.
Here again, leading your design choices with empathy results in what’s right for your visitor and what’s right to fill your practice with clients. Website conversion is awesome and making a website that goes with researched logic instead of an attempt to be flashy is the best choice.
What do you think? Are you still attached to your image slider? Have you ever considered having one on your website? Has this post changed your mind?