Rotating offers: The scourge of home page design

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Should I use a rotating home page offer banner

As Conversion Optimization professionals, our job is to identify components of websites that are hurting the company’s conversion rates and revenue.

In some cases, where the site has already been tested or happens to be well-planned, we have to dig deep in our bag of tricks to develop the test plan.

Other times, the site gives us a gift with components that are common conversion killers. One of the most common of these gifts is the rotating home page offer banner.

We love offer banners! They give us lots of great opportunities to easily beat the Control page with our newly designed test Variations.

Should I use a rotating home page offer banner?

That’s a question I’m often asked when I present at conferences and webinars. Unfortunately for the questioner, they are addressing a common cause of Relevance, Clarity, and Distraction problems.

(Note: For more information on these and the other three Conversion Rate Factors, read up on the LIFT Framework that we use to analyze landing pages)

I decided to visit an arbitrary sampling of home pages today and found nearly all of them featuring some form of a gallery rotator.

Now, I’ll preface the remarks below by saying that there are some excellent uses for a rotating gallery. For example, to display images of home page rotating banners. See below for examples by the Gap, Adobe, Home Depot, Hilton and more. (How do you like the meta message I used there? This post is like an onion. Layered…)

Home Page Rotating Offer Gallery Examples

  • Canon.com Home Page rotating offer galleryCanon.com Home Page rotating offer gallery
  • Canon.com Home Page rotating offer galleryCanon.com Home Page rotating offer gallery
  • Forever21.com Home Page rotating offer galleryForever21.com Home Page rotating offer gallery
  • Gap.com Home Page rotating offer galleryGap.com Home Page rotating offer gallery
  • Gap.com Home Page rotating offer galleryGap.com Home Page rotating offer gallery
  • Hilton.com Home Page rotating offer galleryHilton.com Home Page rotating offer gallery
  • Hilton.com Home Page rotating offer galleryHilton.com Home Page rotating offer gallery
  • HomeDepot.com Home Page rotating offer galleryHomeDepot.com Home Page rotating offer gallery
  • IBM.com Home Page rotating offer galleryIBM.com Home Page rotating offer gallery
  • IBM.com Home Page rotating offer galleryIBM.com Home Page rotating offer gallery
  • MarthaStewart.com Home Page rotating offer galleryMarthaStewart.com Home Page rotating offer gallery
  • Omniture.com Home Page rotating offer galleryOmniture.com Home Page rotating offer gallery
  • Zappos.com Home Page rotating offer galleryZappos.com Home Page rotating offer gallery

At WiderFunnel, we have tested rotating offers many times and have found it to be a poor way of presenting home page content.

The problem with home page rotating features

Let’s think about your visitor’s experience for a moment.

  1. She arrives on your home page and needs to orient herself to your layout in order to decide which information to zero in on. A strong, page-dominant banner with a headline and bold image is where she’s likely going to start her focus.
  2. Unfortunately, the message in that banner usually isn’t relevant to what she’s looking for. Why? The marketing department is featuring current events, offers and news that may be important to some department within the organization but not to the majority of the visitors.
  3. In the lucky event that your visitor sees an offer that looks interesting to her, she will want to read a little more about it. But, just as she’s gathered the motivation to click through and learn more… the rotator switches to the next offer.
  4. What happens now? She’s confronted with a second offer and now has to decide whether to focus on reading it or to go back to the previous. She’s feeling some frustration and disorientation at this point.
  5. If she decides that the first offer was what she really wanted to see, how does she get back to it? She has to figure out the usability of this gallery. The Art Director surely would have made it easy to navigate back and forth between the offers, right?
  6. Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case. Your beleaguered visitor may have to locate a tiny row of dots or squares hidden among the bold, colorful photos in the offer onslaught.
  7. You can, I’m sure, empathize with her likely reaction, which is to bounce off the site in frustration.

The Politics of Home Page Design

The root of the your home page design problem may not lie solely with your Art Director, though.

The problem may be with an organization that is not clear on its business goals, marketing goals and website goals. When organizational politics, inter-departmental jockeying for position and lack of customer-orientation trump Clarity of your Value Proposition, an offer gallery emerges.

Why?

It is the only way your Art Director has found to give all of the competing messages equal priority in the limited home page space.

To avoid this problem:

  1. Begin your website evaluation with a strategic website planning exercise to prioritize your website goals and Conversion Optimization opportunities
  2. Commit to controlled, statistically valid testing on your most important website pages, templates and marketing landing pages
  3. Bring in third party Conversion Optimization experts to help you win the organizational buy-in you need to be a Marketing Optimization Champion

What’s on your home page?

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  • Chris, I'm so glad you posted this.

    Do you have an ideal alternative to the rotating banner? In other words, what did you test against? Some options include a segmented banner, a single-offer banner and no banner.

    One point you didn't touch on is that when the reader finally moves on and begins scanning the rest of the home page, the rotating header is like a TV blaring in another room, always distracting the visitor, limiting their ability to consume the page.

  • Thanks for this post. I'm in the midst of planning a redesign on my own site and frankly I was planning to use a rotating banner,

  • Really Interesting insights, and I bet I am going to be after my Art Director to experiment a bit with our designs..

  • Interesting, Chris. Something we're always curious about. Any data to support (or reject) the hypothesis that carousels distract and/or convert worse?

    • I don't have public case studies I can share, but can tell you generally that we've rarely seen them win in a test.

  • Very nice information provided Chris!

    I hope i can apply these things on my homepage to improve conversion 🙂

  • I am grateful for stumbling on this article on my G Alerts =].

    Anyways, you changed my mind. I'm going with static CTAs above the fold.

    Also recently changed all my sidebars from right to left and already see
    a huge increase on click-throughs.

    Regards,

    Jordan

  • David T. LeBlanc

    Good article and I realized I had some very wrong assumptions about using a slider. Darn, they are such fun to make and clients love them.

  • Siamack

    HI is there any case-study on CONTENT OF THE BANNER SLIDER?

  • this is something we've fought with as we're beholden to producer special offers on our e-commerce website. We've had reasonable achievements with a rotating that prevents on mouseover with an on-hover proactive approach,

  • Boris Grinkot

    Couldn't agree more! Here's what I was thinking about rotating (at the time, all Flash) banners in 2009: http://www.marketingexperiments.com/blog/research

  • I’m impressed, I have to admit. Rarely do I encounter a blog that’s both educative and interesting, and without a doubt, you have hit the nail on the head.

    The problem is something which too few men and women are speaking intelligently about.

    Now i’m very happy that I stumbled across this during my search for something relating

    to this.

  • This is really an excellent post you have shared, thank you and keep up the good work.l

  • Seniors

    Thanks for this post. I'm in the midst of planning a redesign on my own site and frankly I was planning to use a rotating banner

  • ahmed

    This is a great post, thank you for sharing 🙂