“Parallax web design” is an intimidating term for a fairly simple concept. You’ve probably encountered it without knowing what it’s called. Parallax scrolling was originally popularized in 2D computer graphics and video games. Its aim was to create the illusion of depth during gameplay by using different movement speeds for different images. Simply put, parallax scrolling is a visual effect done by making the background move slower than the foreground.
In web design, parallax scrolling holds the same concept. The different elements in a web page move independently from one another, giving a 3D effect to an otherwise 2D plane. Unlike the rest of the page, the background reveals itself at a slower pace to illustrate distance and depth. The result is a visual story that seamlessly unfolds before your eyes as you scroll down. Eric Jaffe from Fast Company describes the parallax experience as an effect that creates “a sense of animation and heightened interactive experience.”
Parallax Web Design as a Trend
Parallax design didn’t become popular for no reason. Professional designers and laymen alike saw how this design can improve websites and drive better return on investment (ROI). Here are some of the features that pushed this trend to the top.
Parallax design became a big hit because it offered a fresh experience to users. It depicted something that they’ve never seen before in traditional websites. Users loved it because it piqued their interest and aroused their curiosity.
Another reason why parallax design caught fire is that it brought users to the next level of interactive online viewing. Users had to scroll down if they wanted to unveil the succeeding events. This feature made users feel like they were entering a new frontier of web experience.
Depth and Animation
When parallax design became a trend, website owners were eager to try it out. It’s possible that every web and presentation designer at that time worked on at least one project involving parallax websites. Websites were redesigned to achieve a sense of depth and animation.
Everybody loves stories. When websites assumed the form of a visual narrative through parallax design, users immediately got hooked. It was a good way to connect with the viewers in a way that traditional websites couldn’t.
Extended Page Visits
Since parallax design encouraged viewers to scroll through an entire page of images, viewers spent more time browsing. This increased traffic and engagement in parallax websites. The more time visitors spend in a website, the more likely they are to respond to the call to action.
Credibility and Professionalism
Parallax design boosts credibility. People are generally impressed with well-designed websites because the quality of a site manifests a company’s brand and work ethic. Parallax design can make a website look appealing—that’s why people gravitate towards it in the first place.
The Inevitable Decline of Parallax Design
Every trend must come to an end, and parallax design is no exception. People eventually realized that this trend was many things, but it wasn’t the ideal fix for everything. Like most trends, it had to pass. Here are some of the things that brought its downfall.
Slow Load Times
Most parallax websites contain only one page, which is detrimental to search engine optimization (SEO) because it limits the number of meta information, H1 tags, URLs, and internal links that can be included in the page. As such, the website’s performance and visibility in search engine rankings are inhibited.
Incompatibility with Mobile
A parallax design appears broken when viewed from a mobile device. It’s a bad business move to implement this design when a significant portion of your traffic comes from mobile platforms.
Distraction from Content
Unless you properly implement it, a parallax web design can distract your viewers from the core message. Your viewers may get lost amidst the design. Parallax effects may be impressive at first glance, but they’ll be downright destructive if your viewers can’t find the information they’re looking for.
Answering the Question of Usability
There is an ongoing debate about the practical purpose of parallax design. How effective is it? Who can use it, and who can do better without it?
The answer is simple. Parallax web design is good only when you’re showcasing who you are and what your business is about. It’s ideal if your goal is to provide customers with a way to contact you. If your website is a landing page that only requires a one-time visit, then parallax web design is for you.
However, if you want your website to fill a bigger role—i.e., providing information, selling products, converting customers, encouraging repeat visits—then it’s better if you stick with traditional website designs. Parallax web design is rarely, if at all, beneficial for blogs and business organization sites. It could only confuse visitors, if not drive them away once and for all.
Parallax scrolling can be a potent device for designing your website. Just make sure you use it for the right purposes. Otherwise, what seems to be an impressive and appealing design trend can backfire against you and do you more harm than good. Choose wisely.
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