One web design trend that refuses to go away is parallax scrolling, which involves the web page's background moving at a slower rate to the foreground, creating a 3D effect as you scroll. It can sometimes be overwhelming, but when used sparingly it can provide a nice, subtle element of depth that helps to result in a distinctive and memorable website.
But to show how it should be done, we've collected together sites that employ the technique to good effect. In some cases the parallax scrolling is the star of the show; in others it simply adds a touch of depth that makes the foreground seem to pop out a little.
01. Made by Few
Made by Few is an annual web conference hosted by Few, a design and development agency in Arkansas. Sally Nixon’s detailed, bright illustrations take pride of place on the event website. The staggered parallax effect enhances the handcrafted feel and adds energy.
There are hidden gems scattered throughout the site (try hitting the Konami Code) to keep things fun. “At Few, we love pleasant accidents and encourage exploration, ” says Arlton Lowry, co-founder of Few. “We believe when you provide people with an open and fun environment, there’s no telling what will come of it.”
A-dam designs original boxer briefs and shorts for men with character, using GOTS-certified organic cotton and handmade by people with fair wages and normal working hours. They're an ethical and stylish alternative to your usual supermarket pants, and their site, created by Build in Amsterdam, showcases them nicely, with assorted parallax elements popping in from all directions as you scroll.
Myriad is a range of modular office furniture by Boss Design that's designed to be flexible and reconfigurable, allowing you to build your own working spaces as you see fit. As part of its work on the launch, Bareface created a site showcasing Myriad's infinite possibilities with clever use of parallax elements, pulling in inspiring arrangements of furniture as you explore the site.
One of the most beautiful examples of parallax scrolling we’ve seen is this website for the game Firewatch, which uses six moving layers to create a sense of depth. It’s great because there’s no scroll hijacking (something that often accompanies the parallax effect), and it’s only used at the top of the page – the rest of the site is still so you can read the information without getting seasick. If you want to see how it’s done, here’s a nice demo on CodePen.
05. Garden Studio
In a similar vein, Garden Studio has also opted to use the parallax technique in a sensible and delightful way at the top of its site, before moving into a mostly static page. The shifting landscape is subtle and unobtrusive yet also the star of the show – we found ourselves scrolling up and down again and again.
06. GitHub 404
This isn’t strictly parallax scrolling as the effect happens on mouse wiggle as opposed to scroll, but it’s a really fun page that uses layering to add depth. Unlike 'proper' parallax, the background moves faster than the foreground, creating a disorienting, otherworldly feel.
07. Jess & Russ
It's no surprise that design power couple Russ Maschmeyer and Jessica Hische's wedding website is a beauty to behold. The site charts their romantic story, with parallax scrolling used throughout to add depth to the illustrations. They got married in 2012, but the website is still well worth a look.
Dream Runner was an unusual online campaign in which Old Spice offered to turn customers’ run maps into fabulous prizes. Using geolocation data, users could draw their desired prize on screen by physically moving around. The results were loosely and hilariously interpreted by judges, with prizes spanning things like ‘a bent metal pipe’ and ‘inflatable shark leisure product’ as well as bigger ticket items like cars and holidays.
The highly interactive site – designed by Wieden + Kennedy no less – fully embraced the ridiculousness of the campaign. In true Old Spice fashion, the splash screen parallaxed tigers in sunglasses, mythical creatures and old men in unitards in all directions as you tilted your phone or moved your mouse. The fun use of the gyroscope hinted that what was going to happen next would also involve physical movement.
09. Alquimia WRG
HTML5 canvas is used to animate the initial loading image. Subtle "parallax elements in the homepage are dynamically created and animated to simulate a 3D space environment through mouse movement," says Andrea Bianchi, creative director at Alquimia.
Next page: Inspiring parallax scrolling sites transform storytelling and even dry topics into adventures