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Website pop-ups vs sliders

As part of our ongoing digital marketing improvement sessions, we’ve focussed on increasing user engagement on the websites we manage for clients.

website pop ups sliders


The latest focus has been on homepage campaign promotion. In the past, this has been achieved through homepage sliders alone but we’re testing better alternatives.

Before we look at the alternatives, let’s quickly go over the pros and cons of homepage sliders.

Background: The obsession with sliders

When clients come to us about their websites, the conversation for many of them invariably reaches the subject of homepage sliders and the multitude of messages they want to get across through multiple transitions.

Sliders have been a staple element of most business’ websites for a long time and are seen as a necessity. Here at S2F, we’ve fallen foul of accepting this as gospel too. But lately we’ve been questioning our own thinking (and that of the industry in general) about homepage sliders, resulting in some interesting findings!

Sliders: What are they used for?

First off, let’s cover what sliders are and how they’re typically used. Usually, homepage sliders:

  1. Explain the core service
  2. Explain secondary services
  3. Promote the latest blog post, exhibition or product
  4. Promote the latest marketing campaign

But how do you prioritise which slide should come first? Ideally, you want to get your core service message across first so that users can understand your business and what you do in an instant – It’s important that audiences know that they’re in the right place and that their experience isn’t hindered by searching for basic information. On the other hand, promoting the latest campaign would make sense too, because it will increase exposure for that campaign and could increase engagement from returning visitors.

So, there’s already a catch 22 situation; Do you alienate new users who don’t know about your business or do you focus on a specific campaign message that existing users may engage with?

First thing’s first…

Do users even engage with sliders?

We did some research into slider engagements and you might be surprised by the results.

The most striking research from Erik Runyon showed that out of 3,000,000 page visits, only 1% of users clicked on a slider. Of that 1%, almost 90% of the clicks occurred on the first slide.

So, let’s take a step back and see what that means for your website. Forgetting about the 99% of users that ignore the slider in the first place, it shows that the item in position one is by far the most important part of the slider.

This begs the question; do we need multiple items in a slider? And should it be a slider at all? We could just insert an image and save a lot of overhead for the website (a slider requires a lot of code to run). has a collection of comments and research on sliders (or carousels) which gives more insight into the usability of sliders.

There’s more to a website than the homepage

The final negative point about homepage sliders is an obvious one, but an important one: Users have to visit the homepage of a website to see the homepage slider.

Stay with me here.

Have you ever checked how many users actually land on your homepage? Although it’s probably the page that is viewed the most in terms of raw numbers, what percentage of overall landing page views does your homepage get?

We selected 8 of our own client websites and delved into the analytics to get a more in-depth understanding. Spanning industries such as; Manufacturing, Legal services and Recruitment, we were able to get a good spread of users or target audiences.

We found that, on average, 57% of users landed on pages other than the homepage. That means that 57% of users wouldn’t have seen the campaign being promoted on the homepage slider.

So, how do you make sure that everyone knows about your most recent marketing campaign?

Website pop-ups

Isn’t it obvious? We can show a popup on any page that we want to, no matter where a user lands, which appeases the demand for as much exposure on campaign activity as possible. We also don’t have sacrifice core messages for any given landing page by replacing sliders.

So, with this theory in mind, we built a system that could be integrated into any of the websites that we build and manage. The system allows any member of the S2F team to create and manage pop-ups with ease.

We also set up tracking for interaction analytics, so that we can validate the results and make sure that this did actually improve engagement and didn’t hinder any relating analytics such as bounce rate, exits and time on site.

How did our test website pop-ups perform?

We set up test pop-ups on one solicitor website and two manufacturer websites.

On average, the pop-ups achieved a 10.6% click-through rate. Compare this to the 1% click-through rate of a homage slider and we were starting to get confident that we were on to a winner.

The highest engagement rate came from a manufacturer who managed a staggering 14% click-through rate! This is a vast improvement on the engagement rates we and the industry in general typically achieve.

Another interesting titbit from our research was that the test pop-ups appeared across 60 different pages (on average). This shows that the coverage our campaign promotions are now getting is significantly higher than the alternative and once obligatory homepage slider.

So, pop-ups are the perfect solution then?

Well, no. Pop-ups aren’t perfect but what is? At S2F we had held out from integrating pop-up content because of the negative connotations that many of our clients had associated with the technique. Mainly in the belief that pop-ups have a reputation for being annoying.

There is no pleasing everybody, we know that but there are ways in which you can minimise negative online user experience through the pop-up system that we have built at S2F and they include:

  • Only showing relevant pop-up content, associated with landing page content
  • Using pop-ups to help users navigate, enquire or ask a question
  • Only showing a specific pop-up once per user
  • Allowing users to easily navigate away from pop-ups
  • Making pop-up content less intrusive (Sidebar pop-ups are a good example of this)

Only time will tell if the implementation of pop-ups has an adverse effect on other analytics, including return visits (as well as user retention), but after a few months of testing, we can confidently say that as an alternative to using various home and landing page sliders – pop-ups come out on top.

Ongoing and close inspection of analytics and results give marketers like S2F a much better understanding of user behaviour. The constant tweaking and continuous improvement planning that we implement for our clients’ websites and marketing activities allows us to find the right balance for achieving maximum exposure and improving user experience.

About the Author

Luke Seager

Specialising in responsive website development, it’s Luke who will make sure your site looks the part on desktop as well as mobile and with it, provides easy to understand analytics and online reports. Luke knows all there is to know about designing & building all types of websites; WordPress, cms, HTML and e-commerce. He also knows all about SEO and getting your website found above the competition.

Connect with Luke on LinkedIn

S2F are a strategic and creative marketing agency based in Birmingham, offering full marketing support from start to finish. Feel free to use our contact form or any of the details below to start a conversation about your marketing requirements.

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