I have been collating some examples of storytelling that take advantage of parallax scrolling. News sites, notably The New York Times and The Guardian have experimented with this technique, creating personal stories that weave stunning imagery, video and copy into an interactive story.
The scrolling interaction gradually exposes more of the story, revealing video, audio and image galleries at relevant points.
This isn’t ‘news’ as such, but it is a form of journalism, reminiscent of Truman Capote’s style and the thoughtful use of technology helps tell these linear stories in a way that’s appropriate to the medium.
This technique has been used successfully for other purposes. It can explain issues or indicate distances using the scrolling motion as a narrative device.
It’s easy to get this wrong – if it’s too slow, stilted or the movement actually gets in the way of the story rather than enhancing it, then it doesn’t work. Pitchfork’s Daft Punk feature suffers from speed issues and the moving parts don’t enhance the story.
It’s more regularly used to suggest that a brand or product is innovative. It’s used to present a series of short messages in an intriguing way, encouraging more than a few seconds of engagement when there may not be content to support any more than this.
Nest also used this technique before launch but have now replaced it with a more static, functional design which is more usable for the changing purpose and quantity of content.
This technique can elegantly communicate a series of simple messages in an engaging way, tell a linear story and weave supporting media throughout. Before embarking on a parallax design it’s worth weighing up the benefits against the potential pitfalls – it works best for desktop views (all the examples above have much simpler mobile versions) so not everyone will experience it in full. The more complex the story and how it is told, the more time intensive it will be – is it worth it? And it needs to have smooth, fast interactions. Technical issues will mean that all the benefits are lost.