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Please Parallax Responsibly: How to Join the Biggest Trend in Web Design Without Wiping Out

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Parallax web design has received praise and recognition from countless web developers and business owners in the past year due to the stunning scenes that it can create by making use of the parallax effect.

The challenge is ensuring that it helps to deliver the necessary message in the context of the website. Improper usage can lead to bad experiences for visitors caused by elements that move too much or make the site hard to read and understand.

Understanding the basics of parallax design while keeping a few tips from the experts in mind will ensure that future parallax websites are effective, succinct and beneficial for websites and visitors.

What are the Basics of Parallax Design?

Parallax design has existed since the 1930s when animators used two objects moving at different speeds to give an illusion of movement in their backgrounds. This technique rode the ebb and flow of animation trends until it was used once again in the 1980s when video game design was in its infancy. Moon Patrol was the first example of a game that successfully used parallax design to make it more immersive.

Parallax design entered into the field of web design only recently with the pushes that made HTML5 and CSS 3 compatibility possible across more browsers than ever before. With the support of block elements, z-layers and numerous other two-dimensional elements, it was possible to have a foreground, an intermediate ground, and a background without using cross-compatibility tools like JavaScript.

The basic of parallax design as it relates to web design became the following:

Three layers are placed one on top of the other. The background is on the bottom, the intermediate above the background, and the foreground is on top where the content will be displayed.

The greater the perceived distance from the viewer, the slower things in a parallax layout will move. This means the background will move the slowest while the intermediate ground will move at a pace that seems faster than the background.

Why Does Parallax Design Work?

Parallax designs rely on using perceived motion to keep the person viewing a web page immersed in whatever is being displayed on the page. Compare it to the dot that sing-a-long lyrics often employ. The dot keeps a person focused on the point that needs to be made at that moment before guiding the visitor along to the next point.

Parallax design makes telling stories, describing products, and persuading visitors to do something even easier than before. Couple this with the full-page elements that trends like responsive web design have encouraged and it can quickly amount to a website that approaches the same levels of interactivity that Flash-based websites have without the need for a third-party browser plug-in.

This allows content creators to control the flow of information while standing out from every other website with a standard layout. Connecting the dots for visitors has never been easier, as a proper parallax design will do so on its own.

How to Avoid Wiping Out with Parallax Design

Like all trends that have impacted web design, it is possible to do parallax web design incorrectly. That’s why it is vital as a web designer to understand how to best utilize parallax web design.

Below are a few important things to keep in mind when using parallax elements.

Ask: Is Parallax Necessary?

The first question to ask when considering a parallax design is: does a parallax design have applicability in this instance? While it can produce astounding layouts, it may not be appropriate for every situation.

Parallax designs should be used when there’s a story to tell from start to finish. The effect that perceived movement should have accompanies ‘journeys’ far better than long articles dense with information. Furthermore, parallax layouts may benefit a website more when used as the main trunk of a tree where there are ample opportunities to branch out. This will allow websites to reduce negative factors like bounce rates while encouraging deep, nested link structures beneficial for SEO.

Keep Load Times Minimized

Parallax designs hinge on the idea that they should be beautiful and interactive. In a perfect world with unlimited Internet speeds and bandwidth, this would be ideal. Long load times, even for the most beautiful of parallax designs, can quickly turn visitors the other way.

Use elements popularized in responsive web design to make the resolution of images and other heavy elements optimized for the expected connections of visitors. This will ensure that the parallax design stays beautiful without detracting from the functionality for users on lower-end devices or connections.

Polish Elements to the Highest Level

While the broad concept of parallax web design is relatively easy to understand, it’s the little extras that separate a usable design from a jaw-dropping one. Small effects like motion blurs, glows, and similar effects will make a parallax design appear realistic and in motion. Never settle for a simple layering of elements that looks too flat, as this can mitigate most of the benefits that a parallax web design offers.

Calls to Action Should Be Priority

Parallax designs hinge on interactivity and guiding users. This is why calls to action should always be large, bright destinations that visitors want to visit. Large buttons should be employed when there is a call to action. Don’t rely on small prompts hidden within text when the goal of parallax is to effectively guide a user from one destination to the next.

Keeping Parallax Design Superb

While parallax is the current trend, it’s important to know when to use it and to note that it is not for every website. It’s also important to know how to use it. When a parallax layout is used, it needs to be polished as brightly as possible. The small touches add up to make it irresistible for visitors to be guided from start to finish – which is the ultimate goal and what a parallax design needs to be successful.

Anything less than that makes for a parallax wipe out.

More reading: http://moz.com/blog/parallax-scrolling-websites-and-seo-a-collection-of-solutions-and-examples