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What Is Parallax Scrolling?

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What Is Parallax Design?

Graphic showing parallax style layering.

Parallax scrolling is a scrolling technique used computer graphics in which background images move more slowly than images in the foreground, creating the illusion of depth and immersion. It is often used in video games.

The word “parallax” is taken from astronomy and defined as the apparent displacement or the difference in apparent direction of something when viewed from two different vantage points.

In the world of digital graphics, programmers can achieve parallax scrolling in different ways. One involves creating different layers that will move at uneven speeds when rendered in a browser or other viewer. Alternately, programmers can create “sprites,” or independent parts of an image, often in the form of avatars or characters that move within a digital landscape. The cycling of repeating patterns is another technique that has been useful in many video game projects and other animations, and programmers can also manipulate the rendering of raster graphics or bitmapped visuals to create parallax scrolling.

The term “parallax” first came from the visual effect of 2D side scrolling videogames that used different background image movement speeds to create the illusion of depth during gameplay. This was generally done by making the background of the game move slower than the foreground in order to make it seem further away. This same concept applies to parallax site design in which the background of the website moves at a different speed as the rest of the page for an impressive visual effect that allows for countless creative applications for online storytelling.

Parallax design gives websites a great opportunity to:

  • Wow viewers with page depth and animation
  • Take a story-telling approach to guide visitors through the site
  • Make page visits last longer by encouraging visitors to scroll through the entire page
  • Provoke curiosity
  • Direct visitors to calls to action
  • Reenforce website credibility with innovative interactive viewing

 

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