I went to college in Charleston, South Carolina and still travel down there on a somewhat frequent basis. About 100 miles from the border of South Carolina, you begin to see billboards for a little place called South of the Border. Actually, it's not little at all. It's a sprawling mass of neon lights, novelty shops, and oversized sculptures of animals that are not—nor have ever been—native to South Carolina. And they are passionate about billboard marketing. Every few miles, there's a new billboard highlighting their world famous miniature golf course or enticing travelers to stop in to take a break and do some shopping. My personal favorite is a billboard featuring an enormous hot dog with the words "You never sausage a place." Classic.
The problem with this advertising overload is that it causes your brain to interact with the billboards in a way that is in direct opposition to their end goal. Because you're seeing a billboard every few miles, you ultimately hit a point where your brain tells you that you're seeing repetitive information and it's no longer important to pay attention to it. The brightly colored billboards fade into the rest of the blurred landscape outside your car windows and by the time you actually reach the border, you're just as likely to keep on driving without a second thought as you are to pull over for a pit stop.
Form Follows Function, Remember?
So what does this have to do with your homepage slideshow? We sometimes see clients use their homepage slideshow to feature two different types of content that actually work against each other, potentially causing visitors to miss valuable information. Some clients choose to use their slideshow to feature long term content, highlighting their core values or other positioning related information. Other clients choose to use their slideshow to highlight short term content—upcoming events, new product or service offerings, or other special company related announcements like a benchmark anniversary.
Each of these is an entirely reasonable approach; the trouble comes when clients try to use the slideshow for both types of content. Repeat visitors to your site will learn how to interact with your slideshow based on the type of content that is featured there and how frequently it changes. If they see that the content is more positioning-related and seems to stay the same, it's likely they'll learn that they don't have to pay close attention to this content and will quickly navigate to other areas of the site without giving it much notice. If you then decided to use the slideshow to highlight an important announcement or piece of information, it's likely that they may breeze right past it. If however, they were accustomed to seeing frequently changing content in your slideshow, they would probably take the time to look through your slides for new content before moving on to other areas of your site.
Ultimately, the approach that you decide to take with your slideshow will most likely be largely driven by who you are and what messages you feel are important to have front and center on your site. However, it's a good idea to pick one approach and stick to it.
Oh, and for the curious, here's what it's like to drive down that stretch and forget what advertising is supposed to do: