WordPress Parallax Scrolling Explained
Anyone who’s ever looked up a WordPress theme or explored various features and functionalities that come with a theme has probably noticed something called parallax scrolling listed among the top theme features. Not everyone is familiar with what parallax scrolling really is, and even those who can recognize it when they see it on a website probably don’t know much else about it. That’s why we thought it would be a good idea to tell you a little more about this popular technique.
What is Parallax Scrolling?
There are many ways to define WordPress parallax scrolling and parallax as a concept in general. A possible definition of it might be that parallax scrolling is a technique in which the background and the foreground are both animated, except they move at different speeds. The background moves slower than the objects in the foreground, which creates an illusion of depth. The technique is widely used in WordPress themes, but obviously it’s not at all limited to this popular CMS.
A Brief History
The word parallax actually comes from astronomy. It describes the apparent displacement or incongruence in direction of an object when it is viewed from two different vantage points. You know how sometimes objects in space appear to move at different speeds because one of them is closer to you? The dynamic of the foreground objects always appears to be faster and more energetic than the dynamic of the objects in the background. In “real life,” this makes sense, because real life is tri-dimensional. But what about design? Well, we can make it seem like real life, and that’s actually one of the main effects designers wish to achieve with parallax.
Parallax as we know it was first introduced during the golden era of video game design, more precisely, with side-scrolling arcade games. Its purpose was to add depth and dynamics to the scene and to improve storytelling, all in the hope of providing gamers with a more engaging and immersive experience.
This was in the early 1980s. Fast-forward to early 2010s and you have the first attempts at parallax scrolling applied to web design. Today, years later, there almost isn’t a person in the world who hasn’t encountered WordPress parallax scrolling in one shape or the other .
How It Works
It may sound complicated, but adding a parallax effect to your site is pretty straightforward. Parallax scrolling actually follows a very simple design concept. You take the background and the foreground and you make them move at different speeds, using animation. When a user scrolls down the page, the background simply reveals slower than the objects in the foreground, which may include images, galleries, videos, text or any other piece of content. The result is that everything appears to be floating in space, instead of just sitting there, fixed to the background.
Note that WordPress parallax scrolling design isn’t a single, universal technique. There are different parallax design styles in use today, but most of them are based on the use of multiple layers. Each of the layers is assigned a scroll function and a designated speed. After this, the proper CSS or HTML fixes for different browsers and viewers are applied, making sure to use the right syntax of the latest versions of these resources, otherwise the whole thing simply won’t work well.
Why It’s Good
Parallax scrolling has become so immensely popular these days that it seems there’s literally no website in the world that doesn’t use it in some way, shape or form. This, of course, is not true, but the fact of the matter remains – this technique is widely used, especially in WordPress sites. So what is it about parallax scrolling that makes it so appealing for web designers?
The answer may lie in user experience. Parallax scrolling creates a dynamic, exciting way we perceive content on a website. It draws us in by creating an illusion of depth and movement. Parallax is also a great storytelling tool, as it drives the user through different elements of content. Provided you use it right, of course. There are plenty of bad examples of parallax use. Sometimes it feels like designers put it out there just because they know how, when in fact have nothing to say with it.
Users like to be entertained. Parallax scrolling is definitely one way to do it. It is also a great way for businesses to literally drag the viewers to the parts of their website where they want their focus to be. For instance, the product or service pages.
In any case, the scrolling behavior definitely does entail an element of surprise. When done right, it delights the user, and that’s always a good thing for a website.
Parallax scrolling definitely improves your WordPress website, but only if you do it right. Adding parallax just for the sake of having parallax is plain silly. With so many websites using this effect, we may be inching closer to the oversaturation and the point where it becomes off-putting, obsolete and dull. Don’t overdo it.
Second, parallax scrolling has to be done right. It needs to run without a glitch, otherwise your site visitors are, obviously, going to be annoyed.
Third, can be very seductive to use parallax scrolling to breathe life into your one-page website, but make sure you actually have something to say and content to give for your users to scroll through.
Fourth, if you’ve managed to engage your visitors with a compelling, well-thought-out parallax scrolling effect, don’t forget to make it work in your favor. Carefully plan your CTAs to entice them even further.
The bottom line is, parallax scrolling is pretty awesome. Yes, there are ways to mess it up and yes, there may be some oversaturation. Still, it is a powerful tool for increasing site traffic and optimizing your conversion rates. Plus, it looks great and adds a cool touch to your website.
What is your opinion on WordPress parallax scrolling? We would love to hear from you in the comments section below!