As an Internet user, I inwardly groan upon discovering that an article I really wanted to read is actually a slideshow. In fact, it’s one of my top pet peeves of Web content formatting!
I’m not alone in this opinion: there are articles about why slideshows should be banned entirely, as well as workarounds for those of us who hate slideshows and other multi-page articles. (There are a few people who defend slideshows as a practice, but even they admit that the format can be overused.)
Since I’m both a Web content consumer AND a Web content writer, I studied this problem from both angles. Why do slideshows bother me so much, as a user, and why might Web content formatters choose this format when so many users hate it? The 4 following reasons explain why:
Why We Should Stop Using Slideshow Article Format
#1: It’s basically a strategy for getting page ads to load more often per user.
Above all, this is what irritates me about slideshow articles: they are invariably riddled with ads (including that dadgum “Ad Slide” that always pops up right in the middle of my reading and disrupts my whole thought flow). It actually feels like the content formatters are highlighting the ads INSTEAD of their content.
News flash: users hate ads! As a user, I don’t care if those ads are “paying for your site”–I don’t want to be bothered with them, ESPECIALLY not when I’m trying to read your admittedly interesting content. Making me click through a 10 or 12-page article just so you can get a few more cents feels like a huge tease. (And as a content writer, I know that the LAST thing we ever want to do is make our users feel like we think of them as money-generators and nothing else.)
#2: Because each slide is so short, the articles end up feeling skimpy on content.
You’d think that if an article is 10 pages, it would actually have some decent content, right? But unfortunately, in the slideshow format, article content is often compressed and badly written to fit alongside or under pictures. Each slide usually contains maybe 5 sentences, which may be enough to satisfy some users, but leaves this English major feeling pretty cold. Explanations are often glossed over in favor of using a picture that usually doesn’t really explain anything, and so the whole article feels rather useless.
Being a largely text-based content creator, I don’t want to waste my users’ time with insipid articles like the ones I end up clicking through all too often. If I’m taking the time to write an article, I want my users to feel like they’ve really learned something at the end of it. And I’d rather not have the format of the article steal emphasis away from my content.
#3: Slideshows don’t work well on mobile devices.
I’ve noticed this while trying to read slideshow articles on my tablet and smartphone–slideshows (especially the pictures!) are usually so huge that the mobile screen has to be scrolled around the page to read everything. And what if the screen can’t be zoomed out or in? Sorry, this content just isn’t visible, and you wasted your time clicking on this article. (Trust me, it’s happened more often than not!) There are some websites I actually just don’t visit on mobile (though I’d like to), because all their articles are slideshows and I can never read the content anyway. (Not to mention that tapping your touchscreen to advance to the next slide is very frustrating when you have big fingers and are trying to target small buttons/text!)
I realize that there are quite a few hurdles to jump when it comes to making slideshows mobile-friendly. In fact, the whole slideshow format seems ill-equipped to handle mobile users in general, from what I’ve been able to see. With that in mind, why aren’t we moving away from slideshow format to something that actually works on all devices?
#4: It makes reading the article take a lot longer.
Admittedly, this is probably my impatience/A.D.D. talking, but I am a fast reader and prefer to scan articles rather than sit and read each line word by word. Having to stop reading to click on to the next slide is an unnecessary block in my information digestion process. Not to mention that the pictures take longer to load than the text, and sometimes the slideshow article software decides to hang in the middle of the article. All of these factors make reading slideshow articles much more of a drag than they ought to be.
Those of us who write and format content for the Web have to be careful of frustrating our users like this. After all, a frustrated user is a non-returning user. Do we REALLY want people turned off from our awesome content because of the way we formatted it?