Category: design

Vestibular Issues in Parallax Design

Over the last year or so, a design trend in the web and mobile world has been transition animations, parallax effects, and the like. For many users, this can cause vestibular issues; the symptom is usually vertigo, or a feeling of motion sickness.

The issue was not well recognized until iOS 7 was released and overwhelmed users with an excessive amount of visual effects, especially parallax. Numerous articles were written about this issue, including iOS 7 and motion sickness by iMore. In a poll displayed on that article, about 28% of users reported having either mild or serious motion sickness with iOS7; this is not a formal study but still makes quite a statement. And at the time of writing, there are 100 comments on the article!

Pro tip! To reduce the parallax effect in iOS 7, go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Reduce Motion.

Pros and Cons

study by Purdue University found that “although parallax scrolling enhanced certain aspects of the user experience, it did not necessarily improve the overall user experience”. Let’s take a look of pros and cons of parallax design.

Pros:

  1. May possibly increase user engagement.

Cons:

  1. Makes many users sick.
  2. Requires additional code which makes web pages more complex longer to load.
  3. Does not function smoothly across all browsers.
  4. Difficult to implement with responsive and mobile design.
  5. Can make it difficult or frustrating for the user to consume content due to excessive scrolling.

Recommendation

There are obviously many more negative points for using parallax design as there are positive. My recommendations are:

  • Use parallax effects (and animations) with much discretion and tolerance, if at all.
  • Ensure complete browser testing on desktop as well as mobile devices.

Related Articles

Related Tweets

Proper Use of Buttons and Links

After years of arguing for proper use of form elements and link elements, others are finally doing the same. More recently, this includes the articles The Anchor Button: Bad for Accessibility, Bad for Usability by Matt Long and Reinventing the hyperlink (with much humor!) by Heydon Pickering.

The main point is, please do the basics. When designing a website, ensure controls with button-type behavior (interaction, affects the current page) are designed as buttons and regular text links (go to an external page, anchor on page, or external document) are designed like text links (such as blue underlined text).

When developing a website, ensure buttons are coded as buttons (the button or input element) and links are coded as links (the anchor element).

Here are some reasons why it’s so important:

  • accessibility and usability
  • a more robust website (support older user agents, non-JS, etc.)
  • lighter and less complex code
  • more consistent implementation so easier to maintain

Remember that for accessibility, no matter how much ARIA and trickery is done, there will mostly likely still be problems. When blurring the distinction between a button and a link, assistive technology (and/or the user) can be confused as to what’s what. View the beginning of this presentation by Derek Featherstone for a good example of this.

This is a button; this is a text link; don't mix them up.
Button versus text link.

This advice sounds simple, but this elementary guideline is broken quite often; once you start to look, you’ll find it everywhere on the web, especially web apps. There’s no need to create confusion (the design) and to re-invent the wheel (the development). Sticking to the basics will make it easier for everyone, most importantly the user.

For an example of proper implementation, check out Easy Chirp.

Further reading:

Tweets quoting “Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited”

A short while ago, my author @DennisL read the excellent book Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited by acclaimed usability professional Steve Krug. Dennis was so impressed with the book, he tweeted a series with quotes, mostly relating to accessibility (as well as design and usability). So in case you missed it, here they are:

Fun Web Accessibility Videos

Follow Harold in his quest to make an accessible website for his company Jiffy Brothers! This is an entertaining two-part video series about a fictional company and its website. It’s produced by The Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) of Ontario, Canada. Watch out for Boris!

Part 1 “Auditing Your Website for Accessibility”

Part 2 “Developing an Accessible Website”

You can find more information and videos from HRPA on the HRPA YouTube channel.

A11Y Roundup, Summer 2013

Here are some great links from this past summer. Enjoy!