Podcast Episode 2 - Feature Carousels

Screenshot of Jared Smith's carousel site

This week on the IAP, we discuss carousel features on the web.

Show Notes & Links


Announcer: This is the IAP - Interactive Accessibility Podcast with Mike Guill and Mark Miller. Introducing Mike Guill and Mark Miller.

Mark Miller: Hi I'm Mark Miller and this is Accessibility Specialist Mike Guill. And this is your Accessibility Podcast. Hey Mike, how are you doing?

Mike Guill: Hey Mark, pretty good. How are you doing?

Mark: I am excellent. So we've got an interesting thing to talk about this podcast. It's not really directly an accessibility thing but I think it highlights a lot of issues. It makes a lot of good points about accessibility.

Mike: No, this is where user experience and you know usability testing and UI design dovetail very very neatly with accessibility.

Mark: Right, well and I will let you introduce this and let people know exactly what we are talking about here. But what I love is how simply and it makes its point and how it involves you as the viewer to make its point. Go ahead and let people know what it is we are looking at here.

Mike: Anybody who is in accessibility space and is in Social Media has seen this because it's been going around like wildfire. The website is shouldiuseacarousel.com and Jared Smith over from WebAIM put this together and it is really clever. Obviously the carousel refers to the sliding feature that you find on a lot of websites. They are very popular and usually have navigation arrows on either side and, maybe, some pagination buttons along the bottom where you can swap back and forth. It looks like - I haven't talked to Jared about this - he's been really busy answering questions and tweets about this but -

Mark: It's just so clever and so simple. He's got to just be getting mobbed.

Mike: Yeah, I overheard on twitter a conversation about his stats on this and I think they are just off the charts -

Mark: I'm sure.

Mike: but, now he made this so it's a carousel itself telling you all the reasons you shouldn't use it. And the timing of it, of flipping through the carousel items is -

Mark: is very deliberately too darn fast. Is what I think is what you are trying to say.

Mike: Oh, yes, yes, very much so. And some of the stats in here are pretty - it surprised me, I've got to say

Mark: Well, before you go into that here's the difference between you and I Mike. Right? You actually took the time to watch this a few times clearly figure out these stats. Where I just had the full experience, watched it once, was frustrated, knew I was supposed to be frustrated and quickly hit the X at the right top-hand corner of my browser and I was done. I moved on to my next task. I was like, gasp -

Mike: and that's pretty much the summation of the finding here because what happened here is - let me get to one of the pages here first - for example one of the frustrating things about this particular carousel - and I know this is on purpose - is that there is no way to pause which slide you are on to read. You have to go back and forth and really, really investigate. If you want to read any of this stuff in its entirety you have to look at it a few times.

Mark: Well, in this one you can't even stop.

Mike: That's what I mean, you can't pause it to read something - of course that was deliberate.

Mark: right, right

Mike: because there are ways to pause sliders like this

Mark: Well, and you know what else too, is he make it go, like, too fast for the average person to read. But it strikes me, like, I'm not a particularly fast reader, so a lot of these where somebody may set up the timing where they think people can read it, I still, I still can't read it, like, I might miss the last half sentence or something.

Mike: Yeah!

Mark: So, on that sort of guess-work you're either going to frustrate someone because they want to see the next one because they are already done or you are going to frustrate somebody because they can't read the whole thing. Everybody reads at a different level.

Mike: Yep, and these things have been so prominent in web design in the past few years. They've been really, really pushed. And, so, here's the thing that I think is really interesting Erik Runyon runs a blog and he is with Notre Dame and he had posted this blog article back in January, it looks like, with some numbers regarding carousel interaction - some statistics. And he recently updated that to reflect some more data - some more looked into what the stats mean. What he found and Jared wrote in his carousel page, is that only one percent of the users on the page clicked one of the features.

Mark: Right

Mike: I was shocked. I really thought that was going to be higher. That's a big giant CTA. You know?

Mark: Yeah. Like I said, I am a 99%er. The only feature I clicked on the page was the one that got me off of the page. I wanted to have nothing to do with it.

Mike: Yeah, so this ought to be a big, big red flag to people who are thinking of using one of these things on a page. And, I've got to say, I am guilty of it too. I have put those things on pages.

Mark: Yeah, I knew that of you.

Mark & Mike: (laugh)

Mike: Guilty

Mark: Yeah, Love carousels - The reason I like this and I like that we are bringing this up and talking about it is one of those things that highlights or gives us a small insight into what it may be like for a person with a disability trying to consume content and the kind of frustrations that they can run across. Because this is a bit of UI that is done, in my opinion, so poorly that the average person finds it frustrating. So when UI isn't done in a way that a person with a disability can experience it very well, these kinds of frustrations, you know, take this and multiply it by 20 or 50 or 100 because there is the equivalent to several carousels on a page when things aren't done correctly. So I think it's just a little insight we can all relate to what that experience must be like.

Mike: Yeah, you don't have to take - you know, the nice thing about this particular site that Jared put together, is that you don't have to take just his word for it, or one other person's word for it, I mean, he pulled out a bunch of stats and quotes on this -

Mark: - which you can't read because they are on a carousel -

Mike: Yeah, but people like us should be reading them.

Mark: Is that a dig are you saying I should have taken the time to read it? (laughs)

Mike: (laughs) Yeah

Mark & Mike: (laugh)

Mark: because not matter what you say, I am not fooling with the carousel.

Mike: We all have our own UI/UX heroes that we listen to. What's the old commercial? You know, when E F Hutton speaks people listen.

Mark: People listen, yup.

Mike: So, in this case, a lot of people listen to Jacob Neilsen and Jacob Neilsen in his findings is that the usability tests on these carousels was the target, the call to action target was the biggest thing on the page. It was the first item in the carousel and the user failed. The user failed the test.

Mark: Well, when you put actionable stuff on the carousel too - it's like playing Whack-a-mole with your actionable content. It's crazy. Like who wants to chase around a button. Why don't you just put a button on the screen that just moves all over the place like a fly and say, "Here, try to click this." It just doesn't make sense.

Mike: Yeah, there is definitely a problem with it especially looking at it in these terms. Another thing that came out of Erik Runyun - his findings was that only one percent of people clicked a feature - but of that of that 1% - 89% - almost 90% of that 1% clicked the very first thing. So, -

Mark: So, there is probably a statistic in there that nobody gathered like 87% of people missed because it was moving. (laughs)

Mike: Yeah, and I don't know, I didn't dig too much into his blog about the whys and stuff. What I can tells you is, to have such a big, big portion of screen real estate taken up for something that only gets only 1% of click is not good. I mean from all aspects not just disability, but from user interface design and, I mean, you know, as a marketer if something is going to take up a big amount of space on the screen it ought be pulling its own weight.

Mark: Sure, it has too.

Mike: We always talk about thing like above the fold items and with mobile and stuff now, where is the fold? And people have different screen sizes. Essentially on the day-to-day type of device, laptops, iPads, pc screens - that kind of stuff - the first few things on the screen are the biggest calls to action. Meaning where the fold is doesn't matter but the first few things on the page. There's a navigation bar, there's a search box, there's a big feature.

Mark: Well, and there is never a carousel below the fold - is the bottom line. I mean you don't click down three pages and find a carousel. The carousel is the most prominent feature and it's above the fold. It's not in sighting effective action - bottom line.

Mike: Yeah, that's right. And Jared even went so far as to say on his site that carousels are this decade's "blink tag." I thought that was pretty interesting. That's a pretty bold statement. After reading all this stuff I have to tend to agree - It's something that as a community we ought to say, "Hey, I've learned my lesson now." Right?

Mark: Yeah, you've got to think about it and think about what you're putting there above the fold and certainly have a handle on your calls to action. They are so important that you can't be playing Whack-a-mole with a call to action. It doesn't make any sense.

Mike: No, and then of course - so that's the user being annoyed where the user doesn't have any disability at all. Right? So, what about people who do have disabilities? What about keyboard users?

Mark: Honestly, they probably roll onto a page with a carousel and off of it. They are doing - the frustrations can be so great as it is that this is just has got to be astronomical for them - off the charts. Forget about it, you know.

Mike: Yeah, and people who use keyboard navigation every day, they have seen it all. They have seen some really poorly designed sites. They've had to muddle through bad websites. So they can probably manage somehow to get through it but they don't want to, especially if they get trapped. Keyboard traps are very common. They end up having to hang up what they are doing and start over -

Mark: Right.

Mike: - which is a huge annoyance - a big deal. And then there are screen reader users. We talk about screen reader users all the time. What does a carousel look like to a screen reader user? Well it depends on the carousel.

Mark: Holy-Moly, yeah.

Mike: You can imagine. It can be a nightmare there is always something going on.

Mark: Well, I think we can safely say that carousels are for kids on playgrounds and not on websites.

Mark & Mike: - (laugh)

Mike: Yeah, well, I am a believer now. I think that is one of the great things about accessibility testing and research. I am not going to sit here and say that I knew this all along because I didn't. But as evidence comes up and research shows that something is a poor idea, well, I am going to learn from it and I hope everyone else does too.

Mark: Well, and thanks to Jared for so effectively highlighting it. I think it is brilliant - right from the URL shouldiuseacarousel.com down to the fact that you actually experience the frustration and then the stats in there certainly backs everything up.

Mike: Oh, he nailed it! Obviously from his statistics he's been so busy. It's been going around Twitter; it's been going around Facebook. I've seen it show up everywhere so there's no way we couldn't talk about it.

Mark: Well, there is sort of this simplistic point that that is what goes viral. If people are looking for things that go viral that is just the sort of thing that does. I was impressed with it because it was showing how content could be in-accessible - not could be but is in-accessible to even a normally abled user.

Mike: The part that I liked best about it was that we, in the accessibility space, we talk all the time about how we normally preach to the choir and how we want to show people who aren't really thinking that much about accessibility - we want to show them why accessibility can and should be important. Right? And this is one of those things that caught the eye of so many other folks. That is really, really incredible.

Mark: Get on the carousel!

Mark & Mike: (laughing)

Mark: Well, alright, thanks for bringing this one up. I hope that the people listening enjoyed it and check it out on shouldiuseacarousel.com if you haven't already.

Mike: It's supposed to link in the show notes.

Mark: Yeah, thanks Mike. And thanks everyone for listening and tell a friend about the IAP - Interactive Accessibility podcast. Let them know that we are out here talking about this stuff and the more listeners the better. So thank you for listening and let your friends know.

Announcer: The IAP - Interactive Accessibility Podcast brought to you by Interactive Accessibility, the accessibility experts. You can find their Access Matters Blog at Interactiveaccessibility.com/blog


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