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. …

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You’re Not Applezon

When we ask what they want from their new websites, many of our design clients say they want their sites to be like Apple.com or Amazon.com. But why? Most of these clients bear little resemblance to Apple or Amazon. Their websites are primarily meant to communicate and inform, not to sell products. They may have member or customer databases, but they haven’t invested in capturing the kind of customer data Amazon or Apple have.

So what are these clients really saying?

“What is it you like about Apple?” I ask. Usually, they say something along the lines of, “It’s so clean.” They are reacting against the busy-ness and excess of their current sites.

What do they want to emulate about Amazon.com? “We want people to feel like the website knows them.” When we probe further, we find this can mean many things: personalization based on an individual log in, role-based access to content, targeting by interest area, topical navigation, or just plain usable navigation and search. But wanting the website to “know people” is usually a reaction to the fact …

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