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I am redesigning a portfolio site and a suggestion was given that we should use a carousel to show featured works. This would allow us the flexibility to define as many featured works as needed. However, we had a bit of a debate about whether the carousel should auto scroll or not.

The pros of scrolling:

  • We don't have to rely on the users to discover new content which is not among the first three featured works
  • We don't have to rely on users to notice the carousel's Next and Previous buttons

Cons

  • Users might get confused if the carousel is showing a different work set after the user has scrolled down and has not observed the carousel scrolling

  • The site is going to be responsive, so when the user views it on a mobile device he will only see one carousel item and if the item just scrolls then he might miss a featured work or not know much to go back to see the featured work

The carousel might look something like this:

Screen shot of a carousel design

I did see this question Should an image carousel on a mobile site automatically rotate? and, though it did give some insights, it doesn't answer the bigger question of whether a carousel in a site should generally scroll or not.

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Something else to consider: ux.stackexchange.com/questions/10312/are-carousels-effective –  AbsoluteƵERØ May 13 '13 at 16:28
    
Only if they stop on hover or click(ing its dot)... (I hate carousels that don't stop for me). –  Marjan Venema May 13 '13 at 18:20
    
possible duplicate of Should an image carousel on a mobile site automatically rotate? –  3nafish May 14 '13 at 12:43

2 Answers 2

up vote 8 down vote accepted

There is one big upside to auto-scroll that you missed: Visitors may not be captured by what you consider the main feature items. Moving through a varied selection of samples may help broaden your reach and tame your bounce rate a bit.

It's a site by site, page by page decision. If there isn't too much to take in on the page and the carousel is the primary focus, auto-scrolling can save the user the trouble of clicking. Just be sure that the content is not of the sort that the viewer will want to study for very long. Present small chunks of very visual information and provide the ability to manually, stop, page, and restart the slides.

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First of all you need to decide the pace of rotation for the carousel. I have seen an increasing trend in sites where the image/content stays for longer durations 15-30 seconds.

JonW pointed out some stats behind the usage of carousels:

Approximately 1% of visitors click on a feature. There was a total of 28,928 clicks on features for this time period. The feature was manually "switched/rotated" a total of 315,665 times. Of these clicks, 84% were on stories in position 1 with the rest split fairly evenly between the other four (~4% each)... ("Feature" refers to the individual calls-to-action that are either manually or automatically rototated in and out of view.)

For a portfolio site, depending on the target audience, it may or may not make sense to use a carousel. Is the audience web-savvy individuals or otherwise?

From a UX standpoint, I would say, treat the carousel the same as how you'd treat your page fold. Show the main content there and hope people notice the other things too. There are merits to sticking to or breaking the norm depending on your design. People do scroll and use the carousels. Ultimately, you need to see what fits your target audience better.

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