The user needs to select an item out of a set of items


Show the items by their visual representation in a circular fashion so that one item can be selected at a time.


Use when

The items need considerable space to display, usually because the are displayed as an image. At the same time the space for the items is limited. Typically only enough for 5-8 items. The set of items shouldn't be to large because otherwise it takes to long to select the item. Do not use for more than 3x times the amount of items that are visible at one time. Can be part of an Image Browser


Align all items horizontally or vertically so that a 'strip' of items is created. Then show only some items of the strip and hide all the others. Place arrow buttons at both ends of the strip so that the user can move the visible area. Highlight the one that is currently selected. In order to improve usability make each item selectable and move the strip so that the selected item is in the middle. Also support keyboard navigation. Use some animation to make the sliding effect of the strip look nice.


Because the carrousel only shows some items at a time, you only need a small space to show many items. Because the carrousel is circular, users can reach items either by going left or going right.

> Although the word 'carrousel' implicates a circular structure, many carrousels are not circular. It then becomes a 'sliding window' over a strip.

More Examples

Funda, a Dutch real-estate site, uses a carousel as part of an Image Browser:

At Yahoo Movies a non-circular carrousel is used. Also not the 3 dots next to the arrow keys that act as a 'you are here' indicator:


Also known as

Rotating Menu

Code examples

Carousel component
3D Carousel in Flash
Image caroussel
3D spinmenu
YUI based carrousel

plml logo


4 comments have been added to this pattern

by gabriel friedman, 20th July 2007
I first saw this pattern used on the redesigned New York Times site in 2006; not the first use, obviously, but maybe the first appearance on a high-traffic news site.

Because of space contraints - they decided to put 6 items in the carousel rather than 5 - the previous/next arrows were consigned to the upper right corner of the block (like your summer movie guide example above,, but much smaller). I'm sure I wasn't the only person who missed them for months, and saw only a grid of images.

It would be interesting to know which is the most visible home for arrows: to the side, above/below, etc...
Martijn van Welie, 21st July 2007
I agree that the Yahoo solution doesn't make it obvious to use the button. In that sense having buttons on the left and on the right is more logical.

Another thing that could help is to ad some animation to show users that there are actually many more items.
Gerard, 10th January 2008
What about carousels that scroll based on the position of the mouse instead of moving N items by N items when the user clicks some button ?

Is that a bad idea ?
Chris, 19th January 2008 has a new feature titled "get yourself a little something" feature that uses this approach to present items from your wishlist. its presentation is very slick, with shadows and reflections. The items increase in size as they move towards the front and shrink as they move to the back. Very well executed.

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