A Letter to Content Marketing People

Dear Content Marketing People, I’m so bummed to be writing this, but someone needs to call this to your attention.

Cover of Content Marketing MagazineIf you had been watching me over the winter holidays, you would have seen me peacefully reading the December 2014 Issue of Chief Content Officer magazine published by the Content Marketing Institute. But then I read this advice on page 17:

"Consider incorporating carousels or sliders - old standbys that remain effective for promoting content."


Stunned. I flip over magazine to check the date, yes, it's December 2014. Go back and re-read. This can't be right.

I too was a big fan of carousels (sliders) – in 2009. Because I worked for a big organization, many groups wanted to be on the homepage. Carousels solved my problem. I was no longer forced to prioritize my organization's homepage content or tell anyone “No, I'm sorry, I’m not putting you on the homepage and here's why . . .” It was the easier, softer way. For that reason alone I should have known the carousel solution would backfire.

In 2012 the usability and accessibility experts started to speak out against carousels. Loudly. Multiple times. All over the place. They referenced usability and user experience research. One fine gentleman even bashed carousels by creating a carousel. I love that. The bottom line is that carousels are user-UN-friendly, frustrating, and ignored. That is not an opinion - this statement is based on research.

Now content marketing folks, you aren't alone in the carousel fan club that remains in 2015. I was brought to a non-profit conference to speak last October and did a lot of research ahead of time prepare for the talk. I learned that carousels are very common on non-profit websites. Some conference attendees did not like it when I strongly recommended against using carousels. "When you said that about carousels, I wanted to slap you," said one non-profit executive. Then she scornfully asked me what she should put on her homepage instead of a carousel (as if that were the only choice!), and I suggested one image, an information graphic, a video or some other kind of content, depending on what would be most useful to her target audience.

If you are really considering your users - the people you want to help, impress, partner with and/or sell to - carousels are NOT a good solution.

So, Content Marketing People, I beg you:

Stop encouraging the use of carousels!


And please take one of the following actions so you don’t make an error like this again:

  1.  Watch this video of a talk I gave at a recent WordPress WordCamp about to learn usability principles. Go straight to 43:18 to hear about carousels.
  2. Sign up for the weekly e-newsletter from the Nielsen Normal Group - it’s free. They reference old and new usability research studies each week.
  3. Make a column on TweetDeck for the hashtag #usability and/or #userexperience.
  4. Get some friends in the usability and user experience community. They have good information and are nice folks.

Usability is like gravity, even if you know nothing about it or want to ignore it, you will still fall flat on your face if you don’t pay attention to it. Usability can help content marketing or it can hurt it, but it can’t be ignored.

Contact me anytime to talk about usability issues. I'm here to help. Together let's make the web a better place for all.

Sincerely, Melissa