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Rotate This, Not That!

Rotate This, Not That!

Rotating content seems common place to most web users these days. Most of this comes in the form of rotating home page banners. We’ve all seen them. Upon visiting a major retailer’s website you’ll usually see their current ads rotating somewhere front and center. There has been much debate recently on whether or not rotating home page banners are effective or a good practice. These arguments stem from all sorts of marketing research and usability testing, but boil down to one simple fact. There is a right way and a wrong way to do most things.

Wide spread improper use of rotating home page banners has been a large contributing factor in negative studies. In order to make the most out of rotating content, there are certain aspects you have to understand about it. Here are some of the things to consider when using a rotating home page banner.

1. Your visitor is not going to see all of your banners.

The majority of your visitors are going to move on to the information they came to your site to get before they ever see all of your rotating content. If you’re using this space to try to pack more offers and specials into a small space, you’re probably not going to get the best results.

2. Visitors like to have control.

This means that your banner navigation should be clearly visible. If something does catch your visitor’s eye, you’re going to want to make sure they can navigate back to it quickly and easily. You may even consider going a step further. You can disable the automatic rotation of your banners and let your visitors scroll through as they choose.

3. Don’t overload your visitors with information.

Your visitors need to be able to quickly digest any banner at a glance. Keep the content to a bare minimum. Also, make sure that the content you are showing is relevant to the majority of your visitors. If your banner only applies to a small portion of your visitors, most of your traffic is going to lose interest in your banners very quickly.

With this information in mind, it’s obvious that home page banners should be used carefully and with much consideration as to what content will be displayed and how it will be displayed. If you think a rotating home page banner is the best move for your website, keep in mind that research is key. There are many marketing and research companies that can give you real professional advice on your banner content and they can also help you track the clicks to see what works and what converts.

Even though the debate on whether or not you should use a rotating home page banner will most likely rage on for quite some time, there is a bright side. Rotating isn’t just for rotating home page banners. There are actually other places on your website where you can spice it up using rotation without the pitfalls of advertising your main content through rotation. I want to focus in on three different areas in which you could safely use rotation on your website.

The first area is testimonials. Using rotation is a great way to display fresh feedback in a small space, such as the footer or the bottom of the left navigation. Thinking back to the first point mentioned about rotation, the visitor is not going to see all of your testimonial “slides” – and that’s ok. The point of displaying your testimonials is to build trust with your visitor. They like to know that people are saying good things about your business, but they don’t need to see all the comments at once to get that feeling. Keeping the second point in mind, include a link to all your testimonials in the area in case they do want to read through all the feedback.

This feature kind of breaks the rule on the third point about minimizing the content. However, it works out in this situation. Customers can easily see it’s a testimonial at a glance. If that’s something that interests them, they are going to take the time to read it and have the expectation that it may be wordy. Here are some examples of rotating testimonials in use:

Another great use of rotation is for displaying featured products. When you try to use rotation for selling things instead of displaying informational content, you run into some of the same issues as a rotating home page banner, so there are specific best practices you should follow here. First of all, only use this feature if there is no priority to your featured products. If you’re trying to up-sell a specific set of popular or high profit items, this is not the solution for you. Use these three criteria as a guide to whether or not this may work well for you.

  • Your products are largely visual instead of functional.
  • Customers can order your product with no or little additional details.
  • You’re trying to give your visitors a larger overview of your selection.

If you meet those three criteria, rotating featured items may be a good idea for your site. Keep in mind that your rotating area for this type of content should be more like a slider. If you feel like you are asking for the sale too early in the shopping process or that you’re not getting conversions, you may consider using a “Learn More” button instead of an “Add to Cart” button. These examples will give you a visual on how this feature can be used:

The third area you can implement rotation is similar to the idea of rotating featured products. Instead of rotating products, you can use the rotation as a convenient way to display a gallery. Galleries are great for displaying things related to your industry or even services you offer. Here are some examples of subjects that work well for galleries:

  • Enthusiast Interests. In the example given later you’ll see a gallery of Corvette images on a site that sells Corvette parts.
  • Fashion, especially collections or images from a show or event. This is also a good showcase for a new line.
  • Food Services (ex. catering, cakes, menu items for restaurants)
  • In-Use Photos – shots of your product in use sent in by real customers.
  • Before/After Photos – builds suspense.

This type of situation is a great way to show off images at a large size and not take up a huge amount of room or make a page a mile long. Make sure to have a very clear and obvious navigation. The image should be the focus – include little or no text. In some cases, a short caption may be prudent. Visitors typically prefer manual rotation to automatic rotation in this type of scenario. Sometimes, all of the images are shown below the main image as thumbnails. In this example, the main image swaps out when a thumbnail is clicked.

The overall takeaway is that rotation can be a handy tool when used correctly. It has to be deliberate and well thought out if you are going to attempt to leverage it as a conversion tool. However, there are a great many ways it can be used to display secondary content. Rotation should be used to help visitors discover your business and industry, not as a way to force feed offers. Your site should always be built around your customer’s needs or you run the risk of turning them off or away. If you keep these tips in mind, your website can be easy to use, engaging, and appealing. Where will you use rotation next?

Stephanie Rawson

Stephanie has 15 years of self-taught HTML and web design experience along with an associates degree in Information Technology from Colorado Tech. Her previous experience in eCommerce and customer service gives her a unique insight into what clients and their customers are looking for. Outside of work, Stephanie is active in Christian ministry and loves geeky hobbies.

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