Web marketers, those associated with products and those responsible for bringing readers to journalistic websites, create slide shows for one primary reason: to get their statistics up for time spent on the website.
Sure, some people may like to browse through a slide show, we have good, emotional human experiences related to slideshows. Every computer that has ever contained an image has includes some kind of slideshow functionality. Slideshows also provide focus on the thing in the moment.
But as an explorer and keeper of knowledge, I find slide shows very annoying. Unlike a list, I can’t copy the slideshow quickly and put it into my knowledge repository. Slideshows also seem more ephemeral than lists, because they are produced. Where textual content may stay on a website, a multimedia asset may not.
Slideshows also eliminate context. With a list, people can scan the list, find commonalities and differences, and sense patterns. With a slideshow you have to cut-and-paste to create your own list (or heaven forbid take notes) and in order to discern context.In print, graphics become lists regardless of their attempts to create the illusion of multimedia. Paper generates context because you can read a magazine like a flipbook, or because all the images appear on the same page. Slideshows fragment that experience.
For product pitches, I’ll live with slideshows because I know what they are trying to do. For journalism and learning, however, I want my slideshows to come with a list, with something more than a bit of text off to the side or stuck into a caption overlay. Because they should know what I’m trying to do, which is learn something. I want to be able to see the context for the slideshow and decide for myself if I want to capture the list to read later, or spend some time looking at a slideshow that will contain one or more inevitable and annoying advertisements. I know that even news websites need money, but let me make the choice of how I consume and retain content. Give me a list so I can remember what might otherwise just breeze by.
Daniel W. Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst of Serious Insights, is an internationally recognized speaker on the future of work and education. He is the author of several books, including Listening to the Future and Management by Design.