Sliders may be SOP for many, but they’re EVIL and need to go away!

I’ve begun a restyling of this site. Slowly, I will get to where I want to be. Trim the fat, improve what works, eliminate what doesn’t.

The last few weeks I’ve reviewed my homepage options, particularly sliders. Those ubiquitous tools of bling that populate many, many homepages throughout the web. While trying to find that perfect balance of form and function by checking out the different options and looking at many sites I’ve reached one conclusion. Sliders are BAD, very, very BAD.

When I was a kid, if I needed to know something, truly know something, I had to diligently research it. I went to a library , looked at books, and then I dug into magazines. I might spend days, hell even weeks, just getting the briefest glimpse on a particular subject. This is how I gained not only knowledge and understanding, but wisdom.

As I researched something, I also gained the context for that information. You couldn’t just get “the facts” without getting all the other less immediate info along with it. That was a GOOD thing.

Now with the internet and tools like Wikipedia, we can get all the facts we want/need with only a few mouse clicks. No trips to the library, no research sessions that give us none of what we want, and lots of what we didn’t. Any info, anytime. But, we also lose that precious context. We may now have “all the facts” but without context we lose much of the wisdom.

And that’s exactly what a slider does for website surfing. We check out a homepage of a favorited site and we see only the content that they put up on that slider. We get just the stuff that scrolls on by, little tidbits for our viewing pleasure. But that’s not what web surfing should be.

Where’s the exploration, where’s the digging for gold? Without some slider passively showing us what we “want” we are forced to go looking instead. And when we look, we may find many things that the slider didn’t show us. We may start to gain a little context, to open up a whole another aspect of that site.

Web-surfing needs to be an active process. We need to be involved in it. Letting a slider do all the work takes the interactivity, most of the fun, and much of the information available out of it.

One of my favorite websites is IGN.com. It offers up movie, television, and game reviews/articles in a continuous and ever-expanding way. Every time I visit I get a slider. This flashy thing sitting at the top of the page, showing me all the “cool new stuff”. But what don’t they show, what pieces of valuable, but less flashy, articles don’t they guide me towards?

Years ago, when I first started going to IGN.com these sliders seemed stylish and nifty. Now they simply bug me. They are in my way. IGN should do a study on the amount of content the average viewer sifts through per visit, both with and without the sliders. If there’s no slider, there’s no automatic filter and this might(?) force someone to go looking for something–and maybe they’ll find something else in addition.

Exploration is essential for how we surf, it is the best kind of interaction. A slider is inherently passive. It shows us a limited view of what’s available on a particular site. Without this passive “advertisement” visitors will have to go exploring.

Besides, most sliders are resource hogs that slow sites down. They may look fancy, but are far from ideal ways to depict something. A simple lightbox gallery is a much better way to show-off art/photography. And a list of articles with just featured photos and excerpts is a much more efficient way to show-off content.

When I first built this site I had almost nothing to offer. I felt a slider was a good way to show visitors what I was planning to offer. Now that I actually have content, the sliders are distractions. Show people the content and let them take the necessary paths to get there.

Although they often act like it, people are not sheep and need not be treated like sheep. Sliders may look shiny. But in the end, the best internet experience is not about the shiny, it’s about the discovery. We must allow people to find their own way, to discover the things we have to offer on their own. Just make it easy and let the “explorers” do the work.

To reiterate, sliders are bad. They funnel visitors along predetermined paths that minimize your site’s impact and reduce the surfing experience to a boring point-and-click, instead of a full-on RPG.

If you are one of the many who still believe sliders are a GOOD thing, they are plenty of support groups and 12-step programs available throughout the internet and your community. Use them, they exist to help YOU.

Chad Schulz, May 2014