Feeding the Beast: Some Thoughts on Carousels and Other Website Features

Our website redesign clients often want a collection of large, rotating images on their new homepage (we’ll call this an image carousel, though these features vary in functionality). Clients say they want to use the carousel to feature their programs and initiatives and promote upcoming events. One client wanted a huge carousel because they saw one they liked on another organization’s website. But more recently, a client told us, “We just can’t support a large carousel.” They knew their limitations.

Carousels can be compelling, but they require high-quality, high-resolution photography or graphics, and stock art rarely fits the bill unless it’s skillfully edited and isn’t used by other companies. (How many times have we seen that same ethnically balanced group of people huddled around a laptop?) So before you opt for a carousel, make sure you can support it so producing appropriate images and supporting content doesn’t become an unwelcome chore, or, as one of our clients called it, “Feeding the beast.”

Having a carousel on your homepage is a commitment to provide fresh promotional images and supporting content regularly. If you have the right design resources and an appetite to showcase your brand and your offerings with a marquee promotional space, a carousel may be right for you. But for organizations with limited design or marketing resources, a carousel can become a burden and ultimately suffer in quality or become neglected. And then it’s a billboard on the website screaming negative messages about their organization. Better to opt for a smaller, static image or a collage of smaller images.

There are lots of other website features that seem appealing but may not be the right choice for every organization. Forums, blogs, and other social media, whether integrated with the website or not, require goals, strategies, policies, oversight, and frequent activity to reflect positively on your organization. Areas of the web site that display headlines and other “newsy” content must be kept up-to-date and refreshed often.

The rule of thumb for all these website features is, “Do what you can do well.” If you’re unprepared to sustain it, don’t attempt it yet. Set your sights on achievable goals and plan for stretch goals later.

For more on the downside of carousels, see Jared Smith’s http://www.shouldiuseacarousel.com/.