Parallax design is a scrolling technique that is gaining in popularity on the Web. When you are on a parallax Web page, you can scroll down with the page, which creates interesting visual effects. Or you can click on the navigation, and often the link will jump you down to that section of the page, greatly simplifying the user experience.
Instead of making users click around a website to find the information, content in a parallax design is presented to the user all in one page in a modern, visually appealing manner.
How Parallax Scrolling Works
The parallax scrolling system is a design technique created for the Web in 2011 using HTML5 and CSS3. It was originally used in video game systems to create effects for a better game-playing experience.
When you are on a parallax Web page and scroll down, different layers move images, content, and backgrounds at different speeds. The technique is captivating to the eye.
Parallax design sites are growing in use because they embrace the fluidity of the Web, provide simplicity, and offer a scrolling technique that creates a neat 3-D effect.
Increasing user engagement is a goal for every website, but without a parallax background, standing out and displaying information in a visually enticing and fluid way can be difficult. Parallax scrolling, however, creates a subtle element of depth that enhances the visual appeal of a Web page.
The "Our Story" page from specialty Canadian coffee retailer Second Cup is an example of a company using parallax on a subpage of its website to better tell its story. The page walks a visitor through Second Cup's company history as the visitor scrolls. (The other pages on the website are not parallax.)
Cons of Parallax
You should be aware of some concerns when deciding whether to use a parallax design. Concerns include the following.
Parallax design is highly animated with a lot of scripts, so it can decrease the load time of a website. Slow load times can lead to traffic bouncing, which hurts the overall ranking of a website. Moreover, excessive scrolling can annoy users and cause them to bounce from your website.
Not all browsers are able to support the parallax design. That inability can lead to problems for the user.
Parallax scrolling is also not ideal for mobile as it makes the website bloated. Parallax adds layers of code to a website. However, using a content-distribution or delivery network can help offset performance issues.
Deficient for analytics
If all your content is on one page, understanding what content is capturing visitors can be difficult. There can be workarounds to this obstacle, such as using event tracking or tying a pageview in Google Analytics to sections of parallax scrolling, but parallax design does add a layer of complexity to analytics.
SEO and new design techniques often don't mesh. In addition to being deficient on the analytics side, many parallax websites are not built with SEO in mind. Content often takes a backseat to the visual, and parallax pages typically aren't geared towards specific topics and targeted websites. External websites may only have one page to link without linking to specific subpage with more relevant content.
Bridging the Gap
Any time you work on a website design, content is one of the major elements to spend time on. You may ask yourself, "How does my content differ from others on the Internet? How can I draw people to my website without sacrificing search engine rankings?" That constant struggle regarding content isn't going way soon—especially as the Web becomes a more visual place.
Using parallax design doesn't mean solid SEO practices can't be implemented. However, marrying parallax design and SEO requires collaboration, creative solutions, and forethought.
Traditionally, parallax design was synonymous with a one-page website, but that does not have to be the case. There are workarounds to the SEO challenges seen in parallax design, such as through the implementation of infinite scroll and other on-page optimization techniques.
The Hybrid Approach
Another tip for augmenting SEO while using parallax design is to use parallax scrolling sparingly on the website.
For example, you could have your homepage only as parallax to better tell your story and communicate your message and then have links to subpages on your website that are not parallax. Or conversely, you could use parallax only on an important subpage to create a more meaningful user experience for that page.
In the case of a parallax homepage, the subpages will be more SEO-friendly and can still have a similar look and feel as the homepage but provide more specifics visitors may be seeking. You can also have a blog that continues to provide fresh content and relevant information to attract new users to your website.