Rainier Fuclan / Digital Marketing / July 24th, 2013

Parallax Design is Trendy, But Will It Limit Your Site?

Parallax design is a rising trend in web development, and you’ve probably seen it around the web. Parallax design offers a lot of visual benefit to users, but some industry critics would state that parallax can hinder a site’s SEO performance. And they’re right, if it’s used incorrectly.

So, What Is Parallax Design?

Parallax design or parallax scrolling has been around since the early ages of video games to create an illusion of depth and immersion. Basically, parallax tracks your entire scrolling, moving the background, text and other content at a different pace to create a feeling of floating in space. RowToThePole.com, for instance, uses this technique to make it appear you’re soaring above icebergs as clouds flow beneath you.

Not everyone agrees that Parallax Design is on the upswing.
Not everyone agrees that Parallax Design is a design trend to watch.

Parallax design has been praised and cried about, among the developers and SEOs of the world. I asked a few people around the office on what they thought about it and Josh Burke, Interactive Designer, weighed in: “It’s great, but a lot of people can go overboard with it.”

I couldn’t agree more with him on that. There are many websites using parallax design with the idea that if it looks cool it will work. However, people need to understand that there’s a fine balance between form and function. Visual appeal isn’t always the most practical way of showing off what you’re trying to get across your visitors.

Essentially, they could get lost from all the extra “noise” you put on the site.

Common Parallax Design Mistakes

Since we have a lot of large content pages, 352 considered using parallax design for certain areas of the new site, but we ultimately decided against it.  While parallax design can look good, it can also quickly become annoying. Many site designers have gone overboard on the parallax design to produce one big website that just Never. Stops. Scrolling.

Since the effect requires a lot of scrolling, many developers tend to stuff the page with more and more content, which places a large burden on your users to sift through a gigantic page to find the information they want.

While it may look nice; it’s still just one page (and one URL), which limits you to just a few keywords you can target, one title and meta description, a single H1 and of course HUGE page load time if your one-page site is full of content. No matter how nice it looks, your users are going to get bored, quickly.

Parallax design can really stand out in certain situations, especially when used for splash pages or a microsite for a digital campaign. Range Rover built an exceptional microsite for its special edition Victoria Beckham vehicle. It’s fun, it’s light and it doesn’t overwhelm users with content.

landrover
Parallax scrolling can deliver a great look, if focused properly.

Ideally, you want to split content to multiple pages that focus on a few things so your visitors can digest it easily. This vastly improves usability, and it lets you optimize multiple pages for an SEO boost.

Then, you need to think of how you’ll track user engagement on the site. It’s a little hard to do when you just have one page for the visitor. You can set up heat maps or A/B test to see how users interact with a page, but the only fruitful analytics data you’ll gather is on-site time, which is flawed because you don’t know how many users came to the site then left to grab a donut. Those things skew the data, and it’s hard to get an accurate measurement.

But I Want My Cake, and I Want to Eat It Too!

So what’s the upside of parallax? Like I said above, it is fine if used correctly. Parallax can be a fun, engaging way to do a site demo or showcase an exciting product. It can make an immersive splash page or microsite, but if you’re looking to build a content-heavy website, you need to be careful when considering parallax.

Parallax works best when showing a story, not telling one.
Parallax works best when showing a story like Intacto’s, not telling one.

If you’re planning a parallax site, make sure you map out what you want to showcase on the scrolling parallax. Ideally, keep content short and sweet to get your point across, but have it linked to static pages on your site for further information. This will help with the whole one-page issue, improve usability and optimization, while also allowing you to gather wholesome data from Google Analytics by analyzing where people are landing and how they’re engaging with your page.

The bottom line is that parallax design can have a lot of upside, but when implemented incorrectly it can drive users crazy and hinder your online strategies – which is a heavy price to pay for a site that looks nice.