August 28, 2014 | Casey Owens

What Is Parallax Design?

What is Parallax Design?

If you use the Internet (and obviously you do), you have probably noticed the dramatic increase in the use of parallax scrolling in website design over the last few years. It started to become popular around 2011, but parallax has actually been around a lot longer than that.

If you've ever played Mario or any other 2D video game, then you’ve seen parallax design at work. In video games, parallax was used to create actions in which the foreground that move at a faster rate than the background.

What Is Parallax Design?

In web design, parallax creates a 3D effect by using design elements that move at different rates to imply visual depth. If done correctly, parallax web design can be responsive, but the graphic effects you can use may be limited by what will display well on mobile devices.

Parallax website designs are created by weaving together HTML5 and CSS3 animations with JavaScript libraries like skrollr, which is one of our favorites. Parallax can also take advantage of SVG (Scalable Vector Graphic) files to allow for the quick and easy scaling of content. SVGs are also smaller in file size and load much faster than other file types.

Why Use Parallax?

Parallax website design is a great opportunity for you to tell a compelling story and wow your visitors. You can use it to guide your visitors through a page with animations that provoke their curiosity and lead them to your calls to action. Visitors are also more likely to stay on parallax pages longer, because animation encourages them to scroll through the entire page to see what will happen next.

Parallax web design is all about the user experience, which can be a double-edged sword. It can be much more engaging, but it can also overwhelm your visitors when used incorrectly. When designing a parallax website, it's important not to overdo it - too much can slow down your site's load time in the browser or be over-stimulating to the viewer. You don’t want to have a cutting-edge website that makes visitors want to leave!

Is Parallax Design Appropriate for Any Website?

It depends on what you think of as parallax. Web designers have a more technical definition from those outside our industry. Non-designers may think of any scrolling page design with movement as parallax, but it may just have elements commonly used in parallax design.

The scrolling approach and animations used in Parallax sites can work for any industry if used properly. The idea of using the full length of a page to present ideas in a more fluid way is becoming more and more popular as the number of devices used to access the web is so varied.

Rather than cramming everything "above the fold" (the portion of a page your browser displays when it first loads), modern design needs to be distributed over the length of a page, effectively communicating what is most important to your audience on any viewing platform.

A true Parallax website as defined by web designers might not be appropriate for everyone. Does your content tell a compelling story? Will that story translate well into visuals? If not, even the most fascinating animation won't hold your visitors' interest for long. It's also important to take your buyer persona into account when you decide if parallax is right for your website - are your ideal customers tech-savvy or visually driven? Then it may be a great idea to choose a parallax site.

We recently finished a parallax site for Knoxville-based Unlock the Value Advisors, who wanted a cutting-edge, modern website design that set them apart from other business advisors. Check it out and tell us your thoughts in the comments, and stay tuned for some more great parallax sites we’re currently working on (including our own website redesign).

Is parallax right for you? Let our experts assess your website!

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Casey Owens

Casey Owens

As a UI/UX specialist, Casey was responsible for consulting on the user interface and user experience elements of all of VIEO's web designs. He also managed PPC campaigns for our clients, working directly with a Google representative to get the best results with the client's budget.

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