Will carousel be dead as a design trend in 2016?

Mar 9, 2016. | By: Dongmei Hu

In the article “5 UX Design Trends You Should Be Aware of in 2016”, it is being predicted that automatic carousel will be come the UX detractor, as evident from numbers shows the design of carousels is not very effective in attracting visitor’s attention. Why automatic carousel is said to be flawed in this published research?

First, it is distracting cause human eyes are sensitive to movement, even involuntarily. Second, users might be unable to understand the intended message of automatic carousel due to the overload of surrounding stimuli, that is, visitors might completely ignore the motion. Last but not least, automatic carousel is simply annoying.

This is a very solid research for the B2B lead gen sites, with perspectives of biology, psychology and real usability test results. Then, the next question is, is it applicable to all other websites? Will automatic carousel be abandoned in the new trend?

That depends on the content and context.

Not all motions are distracting. The music page of Apple’s website uses a short video as background, with static text floating above the video background. With a proper colour design of a single tone in black and white, the promotion text stands out while staying in harmony with all the motions behind. Plus, the video background exhibits the delightful experience the Apply music would bring to users. The page design is full of motion, while keeping visitors concentrated on the key message and delivering an enjoyable user experience.

Automatic carousel is more effective in displaying pictures than texts. Visitors need to first read the text then comprehend the meaning. It takes time for information to be transmitted from retina to our brain, where the letters and phases are decomposed and re-structured to be understandable. Pictures like movie posters, album covers and product images are highly visual items, and create a more direct stimulus in our brain compared to texts. For example, the home page of Tengxun TV uses automatic carousel to promote featured drama series effectively. Visitors could easily recognise actors/actresses and the series titles almost immediately, and all other contents in the image are promotional information, even if visitors do not speak Chinese.

Visitors do pay attention to automatic carousel, if it provides useful information and visitors are in control of the carousel. I’m always paying a great deal of attention to the carousel gallery on airasia.com, as I know that it is worth to spend time on it. Most of the time I’m patient to wait till the carousel completes a full cycle display.

This is a window for ongoing promotion. Thanks to the design of color and typography, I am always able to easily identify promotion message such as like “free ticket” and ticket price at “SGD 70”. Passengers that choosing budget airlines are sensitive to discount and ticket price. For them, the promotion info is the biggest trigger for further interaction on the website. What is more, the time frame of carousel’s auto-rotating feature is just long enough for me to grasp the essential details on price (or percentage of discount) and destiny.

If I’d like to explore further, I would move my mouse over the image and the carousel automatically stops rotating. In addition, the carousel handler bar and image indicator appears, allowing me to click forward and backward, or jump to any image in the carousel. The design does not rush me and gives me the full control.

The promotion info in the carousel gets updated constantly and frequently by displaying the booking period and booking condition of travel period. It invites visitors to come back often and regularly. Moreover, it gives a signal that teh site is still alive, and makes me trust in the website and its contents.

The photos are easy to understand and triggers my interest. Photos of the destination’s scenery tells you directly on the type of get-away you might enjoy: adventuring in the mountain or relaxing on the beach. These kinds of photos are more eye-catchy than a description of holiday experience. It requires little processing power from our brain to understand the promotion within the shortest available time frame allocated by the visitors on the home page.

I have enjoyed the automatic carousel across various websites, and found them quite useful. It might still be one of the favourite design patterns in many website, and will be useful to enhance visitors’ interaction with the sites, as long as designers takes visitor’s needs and motivation into consideration and make the design suit the context and content.

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