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I was recently asked to add a ticker (with daily updates) to one of our HTML-based dashboards. (A ticker would be text scrolling through the screen. In the past you could achieve something like that with the marquee tag in HTML.)

an example of a scrolling marquee/ticker

I personally don't like tickers and think they are a thing of the last century, but that's not really a good argument. There have to be better arguments though, because none of the websites I frequently visit use tickers anymore.

Do you now better arguments against the usage of tickers?

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    It's a web app. So it runs in the browser. – stefan.s Apr 27 '15 at 15:58
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    What's a ticker? Do you mean a hit counter? – Keavon Apr 28 '15 at 2:15
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    @Keavon I mean text automatically scrolling thorugh the screen. Some TV news stations still do this (at least here in Germany). – stefan.s Apr 28 '15 at 5:06
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    If they just want something that is small and catches attention by changing content, you should do what some news-agencies do now: Have a ticker bar, but don't scroll the text, but change it with a transition at certain fixed intervals. Provide additional small previous/next buttons, so the user can always go back to the last line they missed - and stop the animation on mouseover on the buttons... – Falco Apr 28 '15 at 9:59
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    shouldiuseacarousel.com – Fabian Blechschmidt Apr 28 '15 at 14:29

10 Answers 10

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Tickers are like carousels, but worse.

Since you're asking for disadvantages, tickers are an antipattern because:

  • The content is unpredictable for users. Users don't know how large the content is, what order it appears in, where it starts or ends, and how long it will take to read all of it.

  • It either scrolls too slow or too fast. If a reader is focused on reading the ticker, she will read it faster than it scrolls, which makes for a frustrating experience. On the other hand, if the scroll speed is increased, then users not focused on the ticker will find it difficult to focus on the content because it's moving too quickly.

  • It's hard to read moving text. It's well studied that people don't read smoothly, but rather read words in chunks. Having those words move makes for a difficult reading experience (users spend disproportionate effort reading the moving letters, which reduces capacity for understanding the content).

  • It's visually distracting. Moving elements on a page will automatically grab user attention. In the case of a ticker, the content is usually supposed to be peripheral to the main content on a page, but the animation causes it to be distracting to the main content.

Finally, the empirics support your point of view. There are very good reasons why tickers are not used on the vast majority of websites today!

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    One of my favorite things about watching ESPN is the ticker – Kik Apr 27 '15 at 15:15
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    The fourth point (distracting) is the most important point. If the ticker is the primary content on the page, then whether its used depends on whether it's the best way to deliver that highly important content. If it's a secondary or lower priority, then it should only be used if there are very, very compelling reasons to continuously draw the reader's attention from the main content to the ticker. Notice that where tickers are used, the main content is given in short bits - like headlines and images, not full articles. Taking the reader's attention away momentarily is fine there. – Adam Davis Apr 27 '15 at 15:24
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    @kik ESPN does a ticker right. They scroll up with most content visible at once, then scroll left when content doesn't fit. Works great for a television. It is a bit weird on a webpage though since you have so much more space on a webpage, even a mobile one, since the content itself is scrollable. You're better off letting the user scroll themselves. – basher Apr 27 '15 at 15:36
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    Useable alternative: Don't use a ticker. Just put text on the page. – plainclothes Apr 27 '15 at 15:56
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    You could also have linked to our own highly rated question on carousels than one on Quora. – JonW Apr 28 '15 at 9:09
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This is just my opinion, but it's an answer.

Tickers, or marquees, where you see them, tend to inhabit small spaces. Whether that's across the front of a cinema, the back of a police car or on a train station sign.

In the real world they offer an advantage in that they can display more information than the display can statically display, but in a smaller, and thus cheaper, real estate.

Back in time when marquee was still a supported HTML element, they were a bit of a novelty. Now with website design and wheel mice, there really is no need to display information in a scrolling, small block. Why would you? Why not just display it in its own block element, constantly displayed?

If the information is too long for the block and it is imperative that the information be displayed then I believe there's more to be gained by looking at your design, rather than trying to squeeze such an element in.

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    Even on physical signs, marquees are annoying (since if you notice them mid-scroll, you have to wait a while to find out what they're saying). If there are alternatives, the marquee is just bad. – cpast Apr 30 '15 at 4:19
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Scrolling text can be a barrier to accessibility, so much so that WCAG requires that you provide a control that allows the user to pause, stop, or hide the moving content (SC 2.2.2 Pause, Stop, Hide).

Content that moves or auto-updates can be a barrier to anyone who has trouble reading stationary text quickly as well as anyone who has trouble tracking moving objects. It can also cause problems for screen readers.

Moving content can also be a severe distraction for some people. Certain groups, particularly those with attention deficit disorders, find blinking content distracting, making it difficult for them to concentrate on other parts of the Web page.

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As a corollary to both @tohster and @Matt Obee's very nice answers, there is an additional consideration:

Tickers remove control from the person viewing the information

Someone who is trying to read content that is presented as a static list can scroll up or down at their own leisure, and are actively engaged in that act. Tickers force whoever is viewing them into a passive audience state, which can be very disengaging and immediately reduce the interest of the viewer in the content being presented. Even while the ticker's motion may be eye catching and force focus on itself, it can be psychologically distancing and create a feeling of annoyance at the attempted capture, particularly if the information first read does not seem to be of high enough importance to necessitate drawing attention to it in every way possible.

Finally,

Tickers are a poorer presentation of information than static text, and may even break on mobile

Consider @DarrylGodden's answer. Other than as an attempt to use a ticker as needless anachronistic skeuomorph for visual effect (I can't even say "appeal" here), what purpose does the ticker serve? What was the intended purpose in placing it in the page?

Presumably, it was (a) to present information and (b) to call attention to that information.

If the information fits within the horizontal space of the ticker, then the only reason for it to move is… to try to draw the eye. But the movement makes it harder to read, and is an annoying, distracting element while trying to focus on other content on the page.

If the information takes up more space than the horizontal width of the ticker, it will only ever display a limited portion of that information at any given time. A ticker that moves as fast as many people can scan a page would be illegible, because tickers actually work against the natural process by which our eyes scan and interpret text via saccades. Most people are too impatient to wait for something to scroll: either they will assume any non-visible information is unimportant, or they will be frustrated at waiting for it to scroll to being visible.

In effect, using a ticker is not going to impart information as well as static text.

If you can not be sure that someone visiting a page will read a ticker (in its entirety or even at all) for these varying reasons, you can not place significant information in the ticker, so why would you even have a ticker?

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Personal opinion: Tickers are good, as stated above, when the amount of space you have is defined (eg the ticker on a TV news channel). It's good because you can read a summary of the news quickly, as the TV presenter is going through a news story in detail. It also has the advantage that, because it's (usually) with the sound on, you can read the ticker and listen to the presenter at the same time.

The latter of these two - the voice of the presenter - isn't generally there on a dashboard (or any website). So it's really just a question of - is this dashboard showing information slowly/sequentially in a limited/defined space? If that is the case then it might be the right solution, and it can work well in those situations.

I think it's a case of working out what problem is the ticker trying to solve, then solving that problem. A ticker has most likely been suggested because that's a solution to the problem that the person requesting it has seen before. I'd guess that perhaps it's been requested because the user wants a quick summary of what's going on - in that case, what's the best way of displaying that for a user who can scroll down? Perhaps a list, or a table, or ... well, it depends. You need to ask the user what they want the information for and why, then try and solve that problem.

EDIT:

If you're just demoing it to people, the end goal - will it be viewed on a TV screen or a computer (or something else where the person can interact with it)? - still stands. There might be a good reason for using a ticker if it's the first of those. If it's not, then you can tell them that 'this is a better way of displaying this information'. You're the expert, not the people you're demoing to.

  • These are all excellent questions, but in my case it's a demo. So the requirement is more that it looks nice... – stefan.s Apr 28 '15 at 9:49
  • Is it a demo of something that will be shown on a TV screen (ie not interacted with) or on a computer (ie will be interacted with, even if it's just by the person demoing it)? Added a bit to the answer slightly – Algy Taylor Apr 28 '15 at 10:13
  • when the amount of space you have is defined -- and unfortunately after 20 years of serious web development we're still having the argument whether or not the user's viewport constitutes a fixed space ;-) – Steve Jessop Apr 28 '15 at 22:11
  • @SteveJessop - hehe. I know. But sometimes the amount of space you have is defined. For example, you might have a VDU at an airport showing departure times ... the user doesn't interact with it, so the space is defined. If the OP's dashboard is showing in a situation like that, an answer like "just scroll down" isn't helpful .. I guess I'm just playing devil's advocate in a way, saying there is a space for tickers ... it's just ... defined ;-) – Algy Taylor Apr 29 '15 at 12:16
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The reason why it's not a good ux design element is because it makes a webpage look like a financial TV channel.

People see that sliding text and it links to their visual association of NEWS! READ ME! LOOK HERE!! NEWS! Etc. Arhhh, get me outta here!

It's been done to death - so much so, that people will automatically click away after a second seeing it because it's an unpleasant visual cue and memory association.

In general these days people don't want distracting advertising in their face when viewing the web - light box ads are going the same way - people just look for the close button not the light box content.

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Tickers are good for times where you have very limited vertical space (multiple tickers on some TV channels) or very limited space in general (back of a police car, like the previous answer).

However, tickers have one big drawback - they dictate the reading speed. Someone who reads fast has to wait for the ticker to display the new word and someone who reads slow cannot keep up with the ticker. So, if you are not very constrained on space, just use a text box.

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As for myself, as soon as the image started animating I lost track of the text in your question and was barely able to finish reading it. It's also a reason I installed adblock, which I disable on most sites but as soon as I see anything animated or view obstructing on the page, I just put it on again (and if it's not an ad, I explicitly block the source URL).

I'm not aware of having any specific disorders mentioned in other answers, but I just cannot focus if something on the page is moving or blinking. Same with popups, notifications, automatically playing videos, I just end up blocking them or stop visiting the website if I get too annoyed.

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I know this is an anti-ticker thread. But would want to ask all of you honestly. If there was a news ticker application with all possible flexibility like in shape, size, color, structure, how likely are you going to use it.

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    Could you rephrase this into an answer? – Mayo Jul 4 at 12:53
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There may be an accessibility problem: How would a screen reader for the visually impaired handle a marquee?

I now see someone raised this concern, though not specifically about screen reading devices.

  • If you can expand on your point and add to the existing conversation. – Mayo Aug 5 '15 at 0:56

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