What is the Parallax Scrolling Effect?This is when the website background images move at a slower pace than the foreground images as you scroll down a webpage, creating a 3D visual illusion for the viewer. Here’s how it works.Our visual perception shows objects close to us as moving faster and being larger than nearby objects, regardless of their actual size and speed. For example, when you’re driving in a car, sign poles and electrical poles zip past us quickly, while distant objects such as trees or mountains on the horizon move past very slowly, even though our speed is consistent. This is known as motion parallax, or the parallax effect. By recreating that effect in a website design on vertical or horizontal scrolling, our brains see the website as being in 3D, creating very realistic illusion of depth that enhances the user experience through the visual appeal of the site.Although it’s quite new in the world of web design, the use of this illusion to create a sense of depth goes back several decades to early Disney cartoons like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and even Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario video games!
How is the Parallax Scrolling Effect Used in Website Design?There are several methods for applying this graphic design technique to a website using a visual editor.
- Layering – By using multiple layers of background and foreground content, web designers can set individual speeds for each layer’s movement. Layers can also move in different directions to create vertical parallax or horizontal parallax. This is the oldest and simplest method for achieving this effect.
- Slide switching parallax – This is a good alternative to traditional website sliders and uses just two images layered over each other on the slider to create the effect of visual depth. This 3D parallax slider effect is also a good option for websites that have nothing but a slider and where you don’t want to have a full scrolling parallax effect.
- Repeated pattern manipulation – In this method, multiple screens or tiles are floated over repeated background images, creating the layered effect.
- Sprite – This method combines multiple slightly different images to create one single layer to create a 3D illusion. Depending on the position of the viewer determined by cursor movements, only one part of the image is displayed, and this changes as the viewer scrolls or moves through the website.
- Raster – This method works with the pixels of the image, refreshing them from top to bottom as the viewer scrolls through the website. The slight delay and pixel changes create the 3D effect.
Why Use the Parallax Effect on Your Website?While this technical side is interesting, it’s all about the end result it has on the viewer. Using the parallax effect is a great choice if you:
- Want significant visual impact – It’s a great way to deliver visual impact, and immediately engages the brain by engaging its visual bandwidth.
- Want high engagement levels – It’s a design that is highly stimulating, fun and easy to gamify, turning a website into a great user experience. It’s a great choice for brands that want to tell a story with their website, letting visitors walk through and engage with multiple storylines about your brand or vision.
- Want visitors to spend more time on your website – Because it encourages people to explore and it’s easy to introduce an immersive and interactive experience, visitors tend to spend more time on websites that embrace this effect.
The Right Way to Use the Parallax EffectAs with any graphic design technique, it needs to be applied correctly to achieve the full effect. When it goes wrong, the parallax effect can cause load time delays, mobile browsing issues, and jarring contrasts that are too busy for the eye to follow. To get it right, we recommend that:
- You save the larger parallax effect for background content and peripheral images so that they balance the text and static content you want your visitors to see rather than becoming overwhelming.
- It is used on single-page websites where a brand has a limited number of products or a single message to share. It can also be used on multipage websites if limited to the home page or used minimally on additional pages.
- The website is thoroughly tested to ensure load speeds are within recommended benchmarks and that it is fully accessible on mobile.