Slip Sliding Away: The End of Gizmos for www.umflint.edu

I am a fan of XM radio. One of my favorite stations is The Bridge, which is nothing but the music of the singers/songwriters of the 1970s. I don’t care if it dates me, but I love that channel.

Driving into Flint today, I heard Paul Simon’s, “Slip Sliding Away.” You know, the nearer my destination, the more I thought about our website sliders slip sliding away.

Yes, the infamous sliding images (known as “sliders”) on the UM-Flint homepage will be history as of October 1, 2013. And I’m sad about it.

Those sliders meant a lot to me. They showcased beautiful graphics work. They highlighted important events and features. They made the website look pretty.

But, alas (yes, I think the end of sliders warrants the use of “alas”), the sliders will soon be a distant memory. Like Hostess brand snack foods.

The reason for this change is quite simple: the new website will be more responsive. In its responsiveness, that means that people browsing the site will have better experiences on whatever device they’re using. With responsive designs comes the responsibility to be less focused on tons of images and widgetry. It truly means that less is more.

So instead of sliders on the home page, we will determine an appropriate Hero Image that will change regularly to highlight some aspect about the university. This image might show the work of faculty research. It could promote an event. It might even point out an important fact/statistic about the university. And it will never move.

I tried to persuade my staff that maybe we were being a bit too hasty in dumping the sliders. I argued that it was a great way to showcase lots of information. I even said, “Well, everyone else does it.” ┬áTo their credit, the staff talked me down. They wisely referred me to the latest user experience research that showed that people do not generally click on those sliding images. Even worse, people have learned to ignore those images since they are usually junk.

See for yourself:

I couldn’t argue with the evidence. I had to let it go.

That’s the thing about the web. It is always changing. But as it changes, people are finding that what they appreciate most about websites is function over form. The pretty is not as important as the practical. We are busy human beings, and we just don’t have the time or the interest to watch visual slideshow dynamics. We just want the information we are seeking so we can get on with other important things in our lives.

Jen Hogan