Category: disability

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

Involving Users Early in Web Projects

The W3C article Involving Users in Web Projects for Better, Easier Accessibility gives excellent guidelines for developing accessibility in a web project. The article states:

Involving people with disabilities from the beginning of a project helps you better understand accessibility issues and implement more effective accessibility solutions.

In my experience, this couldn’t be more true. Nothing is much worse than having to retro-fit an existing web site or web application for web accessibility, or having to explain what assistive technology is to the author of the specifications document. You must plan from the start, and implement at the end (an old Hijax saying). When the different teams on a project understand accessibility, including the developers, it certainly makes the project run much more smoothly and efficiently.

The article discusses the following items in detail:

  • How Involving Users Early Helps
  • How to Involve Users throughout Your Project
  • Getting a Range of Users
  • Working with Users
  • Combine User Involvement with Standards

These techniques can be applied to more than web sites; also assistive technologies, media players, authoring tools, policies, and technical specifications.

For more, here’s the W3C blog discussing this article: Discover new ways of thinking about accessibility.

Accessibility to the Face

Accessibility to the Face is a must read article for any web site owner, designer, or developer, etc., especially for those who doubt the importance of creating an accessible web site. It’s a personal perspective by Rob Foster. The article doesn’t mention web accessibility specifically, but is directly related (well, he does mention Section 508).

Here’s a quote about the goal of the article:

My hope with this article is to make accessibility issues surrounding disabilities become real for the reader. The ideal response for me would be for people to think a little harder about the people using your product or experience and what it might be like for those who may not have all their faculties.

Most web design companies ignore disabled people

In a report from the UK, where web accessibility is more widely practiced than in most other countries, 75% of Local web design companies ignore disabled people. Unfortunately, I’m sure that percentage is much higher here in the United States, where accessible web sites are still limited to not much more than some government and education sites.