6

I've never been a fan of this UX technique:

  • It's almost always counterintuitive (deliberate cognitive dissonance) because a single scrolling motion produces varying scrolling effects

  • Many sites nowadays (particularly mobile interfaces) have multiple layers of interactions with drawers, drop downs, slide-ins and dialogs, and parallax scrolling adds additional unnecessary Z-axis complexity to interfaces.

  • Proponents often cite the "realistic" interaction of foreground versus background elements, but ultimately the screen is a flat environment so faking deep 3D perspective is incredibly hard to get right without incurring confusion over what the actual perspective is. In real life, every parallax site I've seen forces a change in the perspective point from the user, which is the opposite of realistic.

  • Many (even most) parallax interfaces fail to properly indicate which elements are in the parallax background, so it's distracting to users when pieces start moving in different proportions.

  • Google's Material Design framework has some nice principles explaining why content shouldn't collide in the same 2D space, and parallax websites often violate this physical principle.

I can see why parallax effects took off originally as a gimmicky creative technique, but now that the novelty has worn off, is it time for this effect to die off or are there still valid uses for it aside from perhaps the very simplest long page websites with hero images?

  • Can you add an image to your question? I'm on mobile and it's hard to figure out what it is without searching. – Ooker Aug 2 '15 at 15:20
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    To me, this looks more like a rant than like a real question. – André Aug 3 '15 at 6:57
4

I think there are a few possible benefits that are overlooked:

Reduce how long the 'flow' feels and help with narrative and sequencing of content:

Firstly, by giving the page depth it means that you appear to be covering more 'distance' down the page because you are passing multiple layers of an environment in one scroll. Think of the way old platform games use parallax to make it seem like you are traveling quickly in a larger landscape e.g. Sonic the Hedgehog.

This can actually, if used cleverly, make certain processes feel more fluid or quicker as it adds narrative structure i.e. you could be 3 steps into a process but the farthest background image may have stayed consistent whilst the foreground has changed with each step. This creates a link throughout the flow and could keep you committed to the task.

Engagement and interest shouldn't be undervalued:

I think this goes without saying, but keeping visitors engaged is a big part of UX. UI, forms and processes are more exciting to work on (IMO...not necessarily for everyone) but too often UXers worry about reducing the length of a process to reduce frustration rather than looking at making the journey more enjoyable. Try and book a flight here and you notice lots of transitions etc that aren't really necessary, but they draw you in a make the experience really enjoyable.

If you're browsing an exciting, dynamic and well executed site you may just hang around that little bit longer. I know for designer and UXers parallax is pretty tired and samey but there's still lots of users who get a kick from it.

There is a little article here that lists some of the advantages and disadvantages of parallax and, although the list is short, I'd say most of the advantages listed are reasonable and worth remembering (except their bullet points 4 and 5 which I think aren't necessarily true): https://uxmag.com/articles/the-hypnotic-effect-of-parallax-scrolling-and-how-it-impacts-user-experience

  • 1
    One such narrative example, with legit/good use of parallax -> nytimes.com/projects/2012/snow-fall – Rayraegah Aug 3 '15 at 8:41
  • oh yeah, nice :) – Chris Aug 3 '15 at 8:43
  • @chris another good example of parallax is our corporate website 3ds.com – pzv Aug 3 '15 at 10:54
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    +1 @Chris these are points based on solid design logic. I'm accepting this answer because -- with the way the question is set up -- it just takes one solid deisgn reason to justify not killing the practice. Thanks! – tohster Aug 3 '15 at 23:22
7

I can see why parallax effects took off originally as a gimmicky creative technique, but now that the novelty has worn off, is it time for this effect to die off?

Yes.

OK, fine. "Yes" is probably not a worthy enough answer here. So, to elaborate, yes, I agree with you. As with any design technique, ideally it's being used to solve a communication problem. Initially, these types of sites were unique and something different. They were technically impressive and as such, were engaging for simply being new.

And, of course, then comes the big drawback of going with whatever is new for the sake of it being new: You now look like everyone else.

As the technique was primarily there as a gimmicky bell and whistle, I'd argue it's very hard to justify it as a viable design solution today. However, it's still gimmicky, though less so.

See also:

  • auto-playing MIDI music
  • the BLINK tag
  • All-Flash sites
  • 'under construction' pages.
  • etc.
  • thanks for the response. I personally agree with your answer because it seems to address the overwhelming majority of actual parallax scroll cases where the decision was based on novelty rather than usability/function. I accepted Chris's solution in the end because I do feel that if there is just one solid reason to use parallax scrolling that is enough to not kill off the practice....but it's still true IMO that most actual use cases today are what you describe: gimmicks. – tohster Aug 3 '15 at 23:26
3

I agree, it is time for simple brainless usage of the parallax effect to die off. But as people are generally get used to scrolling it is time to use scrolling wisely making better user experience. This is still not well explored area.

You can use scrolling speed for additional content differentiation. Slower speed will make more friction which is sometimes good to bring your attention to particular lazy button. Another nice usage you can see at http://www.bloomberg.com/ (if you scroll a bit down "top news" left column starts movig faster showing more news than it could fit in static).

  • That's almost disorienting for anyone looking for things in the article or scanning the page. I can imagine it works on such a News website since users will be reading it slowly. – insidesin Aug 3 '15 at 8:36
  • @insidesin - it also depends on the device you're using. I'm on a desktop where scrolling goes by steps. You don't really notice the effect. Also, business users might already be accustomed to news/stock tickers moving at different speeds: i800.photobucket.com/albums/yy281/Robbie928/p28.jpg or more extremely youtube.com/watch?v=8YQ_HGvrHEU – PixelSnader Aug 3 '15 at 14:20
  • +1 Alexander, I hadn't seen the mismatched scrolling effect outside of parallax before. Thanks for pointing that out. I'm not sure I really like the usability of that solution (it breaks the principle of physical correspondence when scrolling), but it's an interesting innovation and I'm glad you pointed that out. – tohster Aug 3 '15 at 23:24
0

No if using parallax solves a design or user interface issue. It's no different than deciding whether you should stop using the color, blue, just because everyone else is using it.

If you are using parallax just for the effect, and no other reason, then yes, for all the reasons DA01 mentions.

  • I'm open to this idea but I'm just not sure what actual design problem parallax scrolling solves... Do you have any suggestions? – tohster Aug 2 '15 at 20:36
  • @tohster I've not found a reason to use parallax yet but, if I find a place where it does something for me that I need, I'll use it. – Rob Aug 3 '15 at 1:52
  • @CoDEmanX Haven't a clue what you're talking about. – Rob Aug 3 '15 at 1:53
  • @Rob me neither. I've noticed some news apps that try to use it for leading images and the interaction is interesting the first time but is annoyingly disorienting subsequently – tohster Aug 3 '15 at 2:14
  • I believe it can save some vertical space, depending on the implementation. I guessed that could count as solution to a design problem. It may not outweigh the drawbacks still. – CoDEmanX Aug 3 '15 at 5:13
0

The answer is a clear "Nes". So as all other answers show the diversity why or why not to use parallax scrolling, I want to add an interesting part i read in the book: "There's not an app for that" (Simon Robinson, Gary Marsden, Matt Jones).

There is a discussion on how users perceive the content of current digital devices. Users tend to "touch" the widgets, etc... but our fingertips still hit a hard cold solid glass surface when interacting with the content.

So one reason to use parallax scrolling, or more in general, use techniques to give the impression of depth, would be to bring the content "closer" on our fingertips. So the surface gets more and more into the background and the perceived interaction is on the widgets itself.

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