I'm trying to figure out the value of an image carousel vs. scrolling for a portfolio site. Obviously because it is a portfolio the images are the main content and at first glance displaying them in a carousel would seem to make sense especially if your site is going to be viewable on mobile. The swipe interaction on a phone is natural, but I'm wondering if it makes much more sense from user point of view to just use the scrolling metaphor.

I read the Are carousels effective? post which is a great discussion, but that one seemed more aligned with a carousel displaying images and text that leads a user to the content as opposed to using a carousel as the mechanism to display a set of content(like images).

  • Welcome to the site, @gracerx. If I understand correctly, you're asking whether horizontal or vertical scrolling is better when the content is an image library. Is that correct? Or are you asking about incremental (shifting a full-image-at-a-time) versus continuous (shifting a couple of pixels at a time) scrolling for a collection of images? You may want to edit your post to include your exact question; at the moment, your overall topic is clear, but your precise question is a little fuzzy. Jan 15, 2015 at 18:02
  • The term 'carousel' may be a bit of a red herring on this question. I think it's primarily a scrolling/swiping issue more than it specifically being a carousel (which is a term that has some baggage along the lines of '3D cover flow spinners')
    – DA01
    Jan 15, 2015 at 18:47
  • Point 1: yes, what is better for browsing a set of images a vertical scroll (basic web, and mobile interaction) or a horizontal carousel. Point 2: I'm not overly concerned, at this time, with incremental or continuous movement. I'm more concerned with activity of browsing the images in the gallery: Horizontal carousel (incremental or continuous), vs. vertical scroll.
    – gracerx
    Jan 15, 2015 at 18:52

2 Answers 2


Use scrolling.

People tend to overlook a carousel as they may assume its content is only what is displayed in the first instance. Maybe in this scenario people are searching for a portfolio and as such would know it is a carousel, but as an example we had a carousel on one of our websites the first images had a few clicks a CTR of around 0.05%... the images on the next section had a CTR of 0.00%.

I personally find a carousel to be tedious to use on a mobile device, this is partly down to poor implementation, but also due to the extra effort needed from me. I find swiping natural when I only have to do it a few times but if you have a lot of images it will become tiresome. Scrolling is more natural to users, take Facebook all you see is people scrolling on their phone.

Scrolling vs swiping - I say scroll. Less effort required from your users.

It will be a split of opinion on this, really it would come down to the quality of your implementation and whether your content needs a carousel.

A found a few nice points I mentioned above in the article below, worth a read..

Designing effective carousels

This contains some useful considerations for mobile carousel design.

8 UX requirements for carousel design

  • There are definitely a lot of good insights for carousels on home pages, which makes sense in the context of getting and keeping eyes on a page. Hopefully more will start showing up on viewing sets of content like images. I do find plenty of examples for both, but going from web to mobile, scrolling seems the most natural for larger sets of content.
    – gracerx
    Jan 15, 2015 at 21:03

Portfolio sites are somewhat unique situations in that you likely have a fairly defined and committed audience. They are specifically looking at your work to possibly hire you.

This gives you a little bit of freedom that you may not otherwise have with broader audience.

Carousels in the 'traditional' sense that had 3D rotating gimicky animations or cover-flow like interactions I would not recommend for two reasons a) They're tired and not always a usable as we think b) The UI becomes the focus rather than the content--and on a portfolio site, you REALLY want the content to be the focus.

That leaves you with deciding how to scroll or page through the content. Horizontally or vertically.

If you peruse portfolio web sites, you will find both used quite a bit. Vertical is a tad nicer on the desktop, horizontal is nicer on the tablet.

As such, I say flip a coin. :)

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