UX Crash Course: Stupid Question 21 of 30

As a follow-up to our Flat Design question yesterday, I thought I would go the other way and answer a question about interfaces with 3D effects:

“Is parallax good UX?”


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Parallax is the technique of using several layers in a website to make it look like the site is 3D as you scroll. Some call it a Parallax Effect.

Nobody will argue that a good parallax site looks amazing. When Nike’s Better World site (not online anymore) emerged in 2011, it set a new standard for “cool factor”.

And while many people think “cool-factor” and “quality” are the same thing, I have seen way too many analytics from those types of sites to agree.

So, is parallax good UX?


The Stupid Answer: 

“I scrolled up and down that site for 10 minutes. It’s obviously amazing.”


The Real Answer:

Parallax can be good UX. Pretty much any technique can be good.

A parallax effect is like a small penis: what matters is how you use it.

If you are using parallax effects to move the user’s attention onto things that you want them to tap/click, great. 

If not, then no, it isn’t good UX.


Why this isn’t a stupid question:
Engagement is different than attention.

Parallax effects are a good way to get users to say “wow!” and scroll all the way to the bottom of the site.

But when they get to the bottom and you ask them about the content of the site, they might not be able to tell you anything. 


Because that super-rad scrolling effect was more interesting than the content itself. Oops.

They have seen a bunch of cool pictures and absorbed zero information.

If your goal was to show them something, mission accomplished. In Nike’s case, maybe it was worth it just to make you aware that Better World was a thing.

But if your goal was to teach them something, or sell them something, or explain something, then you have failed, miserably.

Engagement isn’t just measured by how much time a user spends with you or whether they enjoyed that time. 

Engagement is measured by how much users do during their time with you.

A user that scrolls to the bottom of your site, remembers nothing, and then never comes back, is worth almost nothing. 

And remember: you get paid to do UX. This isn’t a fashion show.


Tomorrow we will answer: “what link colour gets the most clicks?”