We are planning to refresh our website design later in the year, but there’s one thing we decided to get rid of sooner than later: the image slider we had at the top of our homepage.

Image sliders and carousels were all the rage several years ago, and MANY nonprofit websites (maybe yours) have them right at the top.

In theory, it’s a great idea. You can showcase more than one message at a time! It moves, and that’s exciting, right?

The problem is that they don’t do a good job of either conveying information or motivating action.  Click and conversion rates are terrible, and the clicks they do get are almost always on the first image.

Here’s a bunch of commentary and research, if you want it:

Don’t Use Automatic Image Sliders or Carousels

Do Rotating Sliders Help or Hurt Your Website? [Research Roundup]

Home Page Sliders – Get Off the Carousel

The bottom line is that carousels work great for their original intended purpose, like letting users quickly move through a photo album or portfolio. 

But they are terrible as the star of your homepage.

What should you do instead?

The current trend is definitely the hero image: that big full-width image, often with a text overlay and even a button on it. 

I’d encourage you to go a step further and to think of that hero image as yet another communications channel in your editorial calendar. 

Change the hero image based on why people are most likely coming to your website at any given time.

  • Just sent a fundraising appeal? Change the hero image to match, including a donate button.
  • Received great press coverage? Change the hero image to match the topic and include a call to action for these new visitors who saw it.
  • Issue a new report or have a program deadline coming up? Change the hero image to that.

When there’s nothing especially newsy or timely, you can fall back to a default image that more broadly describes what you do. You might have a few of these that you rotate through (just not all at the same time!). Lean toward close-up people images, rather than photos of things or big groups.

This approach does require more focus and prioritizing on your part, but that’s a good thing! It means your messaging will be that much more focused too, which increases the odds of it actually working.

Naturally, some organizations will have an easier time finding the right hero photo than others. Need some help designing your hero image?

Charity and Biscuits has a great post with nonprofit homepage thumbnails. Scroll down past the collection for their advice on hero images, especially on choosing the right people photos.

Canva has a nice collection of different approaches too.

What do we see in your hero image?