From Atari to Web:
The rise and fall of parallax
(and how to measure it)
By Kate Fleming
In today’s world of fast-paced and ever changing user experience design, it’s safe to say that user experience plays a huge role in the success or failure of a product. From responsive web design and carefully thought out typography, to using icons over text—the desire to orchestrate a compelling user experience, and ultimately, drive conversions, is top of mind for most marketing professionals.
While the pure parallax scrolling design trend is slowing down, many brands choose to utilize single page campaign sites or site sections to tell a specific story (i.e. the Burger King “McWhopper”) or encourage media content engagement via endless scrolling (i.e. NBC Universal’s “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon” It’s also heavily utilized in the editorial world for immersive multimedia features such as the recent National Geographic article “A Bear’s-Eye View of Yellowstone,” and originally canonized by the New York Times 2012 piece, “Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek.”
But how do you architect your analytics solution to track visitor behavior within a parallax experience. At the core, the question isn’t really how to track user engagement on responsive scrolling web pages but rather what to track on parallax scrolling sites.
To answer this question, it’s essential to have a baseline understanding of what parallax is.
Parallax first originated from using different background image speeds in 2D side scrolling videogames. This created the illusion of depth- by making the background slower than the foreground it appeared father away. The same concept applies to web pages.
Content (commonly the background image) of a webpage moves at a slower scrolling speed than that of the content that is in the foreground, creating a sense of animation and an improved interactive experience for viewers.
When it comes to measuring in-depth user engagement on a page, parallax scrolling provides unique opportunities for marketers to promote content. Parallax scrolling should be used to:
Tell a good story
It's critical that there's a flow and method to the content and the order in which it’s presented. Parallax scrolling should guide visitors through the experience of a webpage. Incorrect or sloppy placement of content can lead to high bounce rates by users.
Ask the questions: Are users finding this experience engaging? Is this experience leading to a higher conversion rate? These questions can be answered by initiating an A/B test and comparing the results between the parallax site version and a non-responsive scroll site version.
Make your visits count
Parallax should provoke a curiosity within users that encourages them to scroll through the entire page.
Ask the question: Are users viewing the bottom of the webpage? What content is getting the most attention? There are a multitude of ways to answer these questions. From a simple click through report contrasting different sections of the page, to a more in-depth scrolling behavior or impression tracking report showing which content was in view the most. Both would serve as indicators of whether or not users were fully engaging with the parallax experience.
Guide visitors toward calls to action
The parallax experience should place emphasis on elements defined as “calls to action” and should have content organized in a way that drives users to want to engage with these elements.
Ask the question: Are users seeing these calls to actions? Are users engaging with these calls to actions? These questions can be answered by a simple click-through rate report, or for even more accuracy, an impression report that showed how many people saw the calls to actions but did not click through.
Solution architecture and instrumentation in parallax must follow best practices as far as naming taxonomy and event variables for reporting and segmentation. With no traditional conversion pathing via page click events, engagement metrics rely on building custom tagging to create “page views” based on scroll depth or other viewing metrics.
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