First, what is a website "carousel" you might ask? Briefly, "carousels" are the navigable slideshows frequently displayed on law firm homepages through which visitors can scroll to learn more about a firm's practice areas, recent accomplishments, and/or other distinguishing qualities. Each frame of a carousel typically consists of a large bold image, a small amount of descriptive text, and a link to learn more about the subject of the frame. The key advantage of carousels is that they allow multiple pieces of content to simultaneously occupy prime real estate on a website homepage. Here's a link to an example we deployed for one client.
But the usability experts at Nielsen Norman Group (NNG) warn that carousels are a double-edged sword that can do more harm than good to a company's image if not properly designed. In a recent article entitled "Designing Effective Carousels: Create a Fanciful Amusement, Not a House of Horrors," Kara Pernice, Managing Director at NNG, cautions that, among other issues, the designer of a carousel may intend it as a collection of images that togther tell a story, whereas many visitors may only be focusing on the first frame without navigating further. However, the image and copy in that first frame, taken out of context, may give users the wrong idea about an organization.
To help companies design more effective carousels, Pernice offers up 7 best practices along with screenshots of sample carousels illustrating her points.
#1: Limit carousels to five or fewer frames - visitors may not be able to engage with many more than that (though from experience, firms often find it hard to decide what practice areas to focus on).
#2: Use crisp-looking text and images that are easy to read and understand.
#3: Indicate the number of frames and help visitors see where they are in the sequence as they navigate.
#4 (and #6): Ideally, use navigational controls that are distinct and consist of text and thumbnail images that help visitors identify the choices.
#5: Position the navigational controls inside the carousel.
#7: Make sure navigational controls are large enough to see and click. Buttons that are tiny, close together, or on top of a busy background are not easy to see or click.
Click here to read the full article with helpful samples (the article also provides guidelines on auto-forwarding through frames, including when - and when not to - auto-forward).