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In our website redesign we are considering using alternating illustrations at the top of each landing page. This was a suggestion from Marketing to make the pages a little more interesting for each visit.

My initial intuition is that if a user returns to the same page during the same visit or a later time, this causes confusion with the user about having already seen/read the page before or not.

Is there any usability research about alternating illustrations?

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In general: "The Idea Came From Marketing" = BE WARY! ;) –  DA01 Jul 31 '13 at 14:29

2 Answers 2

We've recommended this sort of idea as a compromise to clients when they say they need a carousel on the page, so suggesting the option of a random header image gets across the same idea to keep the marketing department happy (any one of the three or four 'slides' can get top-priority on the page an equal amount of times).

They are used for promotional information, potentially presenting a different promotion to the visitor each time they visit (we have them set on a more-or-less random basis, a choice of three 'slides' to display, so each one gets shown to 33% of visitors).

The benefit from our point of view is two-fold.

  1. It significantly reduces the page weight. Loading in only one large-scale image on the page-load instead of having to load in a carousel of promotional images (and the resulting JavaScript that's needed to manage a carousel) is a significant advantage over the carousels requested.
  2. It is far less distracting to the user - there isn't a constantly rotating / animating image distracting them from reading the content. Users can choose to take in the information (although that is more of a subconscious choice than an active choice really) and then get on with their browsing. If they choose to read the promotional slide material it isn't going to rotate out of view before they've finished taking it all in as it's there for the whole browser session, they can return to it to see it whenever they want.

So it might depend on the purpose of this image. Don't actually expect anyone to look at it - people don't really pay attention to header images anyway (banner blindless and all that) but as an alternative to a 'funky' slider / carousel / slideshow I would say it's far preferrable.

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The main problem with the suggestion would seem to be the placement: Changing the top of the page is most likely to cause confusion. (If it's also a large portion of the page, it's even worse.)

A similar but better option would be to make sure there is a consistent top-of-page image or text area (even a small one) which a user can see as confirmation that yes, this is the right/same page (don't violate their expectations with the very first thing on which they will fixate), and have the variable illustration area follow that.

A bit of thought into making the top area communicate that the entire page and not just the top area is "the same" would also help.

Of course, if you can put the variable illustration even farther down the page (maybe the bottom of the area visible before any scrolling), that would be better still, as the user would take in more consistency in the more important, upper areas to counteract the oddity lower on the page.

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