Carousels: Rotating your featured webpages to help turn heads

Like their fairground counterparts, website carousels rotate — but rather than moving model horses and unicorns — they move images and links.

Bell Canada is one of many major businesses that uses changing images to draw attention to its various initiatives.

A carousel is actually a standard application that you’ve likely seen when visiting high-profile sites. For instance, telecom company Bell Canada features a carousel prominently on their homepage, showing visitors a links to pre-order the iPhone 4S, sign up for high-speed Internet, get a promotional PVR, and more as it cycles through.

It’s a great way of showing your site’s content without overwhelming visitors with too many links and images at once. We also think the movement and anticipation of the next content makes the rotation of your posts or pages a visually stimulating element to most sites.

There are lots of companies that are using carousels well, and based on these companies. The following are some guidelines we’ve picked up for creating an effective carousel:

Write engaging content – You should strive to give your blog posts and webpages short, descriptive titles. When the each headline is scrolling by, it’s important that you write something that spurs people to visit that page. Also, make sure it can be read within the allotted time because you can’t count on someone going back to read it.

Canadian photography store Henry’s makes its carosel interesting to visitors using compelling images that accurately show the products and services it offers.

Have attention-grabbing images – You only have a short window to capture the visitor’s attention so you have to make sure that the images are clear and compelling. A consumer-grade camera will certainly capture greatt images in the right hands. Otherwise, you can hire a professional photographer, or use stock image that can be used to convey the topic of the blog post or page.

Give users control – Your gallery is like a subway, taking users from one place to another, and you don’t want someone to miss their stop. By giving users the option to stop the rotation, they can hold open the subway doors for as long as they want.

Also, letting users cycle through the rotation allows them to browse at their own pace, which could be faster or slower than the default setting. Instead of having to wait for the subway to get to each destination, it’s like the user can teleport to each station.

GO BIG — We often limit the size of static images and text because we have to be economical with space. When these links and images are contained in a carousel, however, they often benefit from being large and immediately visible. You should think of carousel images and text somewhat like road signals that guide your website traffic — they should be large and clear.

We designed the website for electrical supplier Avnan to show the various aspects of its business, including its custom engineering, high product and assembly quality, and its inventory logistics expertise, all on the home page.

Do it right — When you talk to your Web developer about how to install a carousel, they should know there are various options. We like the Anything Slider, which is a plugin for the jQuery JavaScript library that can be used to create a custom carousel and display any HTML content. Another option is bxSlider, a feature-rich  plugin for jQuery that shifts through images and links.

If you’re using the WordPress as a content management system, some themes like MagPress already have a rotating story gallery. If your theme doesn’t have a built-in carousel, you can use an add-on plugin like the Featured Content Gallery by iePlexus, which automatically rotates your posts or pages for use anywhere within your theme. With some customization, it will fit with nearly any theme.

We’ve found carousels to be extremely versatile, having designed ones to show the features of EchoWorx’s mobilEncrypt ENDPOINT encryption software, display some spectacular photos taken at Casa Duma Cottage, and give website visitors a sense of what Fathom Co. lifestyle public relations is all about.

If you’re hoping to draw attention to specific pages and different initiatives on your site, adding a carousel could be a good option for your website.

Need help getting your carousel running? Kobayashi Online is here to make online friendly, and we’ll work with you to create the right website for your business!