I bowed out of most of the various technology for real estate groups some two weeks ago, fearing that I was getting caught up on the wrong side of many issues relating to the creative side of design and tech for Real Estate. My learless feeder, despite all my great arguments, chose to stay and today hit me in the face with what, for the sake of this post, I’m going to call the next big shiny new object.
Like a parent hard at work when their child exclaims, “Oh My God You’ve GOT to See This!” — All I’m thinking is, “Oh for #uc% sake, what is it now?!?!?” And sure enough web-minded real estate folks have found a new toy. A new way to complicate their lives. A new weapon in their never-ending arms race. Parallax Scrolling.
Parallax scrolling isn’t new. In fact, it’s been around quite literally for ever. It was first discovered by the first child to ride a train and look out at the moon in the evening sky and wonder, “why is everything but the moon moving? Is it following me?”. Disney used it by paining backgrounds in layers on clear plastic, moving them at different rates to give the impression of depth. Super Mario Brothers? Yeah, that was basically Parallax too. It was what the first film printers, back in the days of Star Wars, spent most of their time doing. And a few years ago it found its way to the web.
Before I really get started on this, I want to be clear. Parallax is cool. Very cool! And since it landed on the web a lot of amazing and useful things have been done with it. I’m in no way against it and believe it IS a useful and effective addition to the web. I don’t, however, think it should be used for cool and nothing more.
Examples of Bad or Useless Parallax Utilization:
Green Splash Web Design – This is actually a very cool firm. The only reason they’re here is that Parallax isn’t really adding anything to this design. It’s “cool for the sake of cool”.
NH Hotels – This site might be awesome? I wouldn’t know because I got a little sick after just two scrolls. This is a great example of NOT thinking about your users.
Muffi – I don’t know what the hell is this. – “Just cuz you can doesn’t mean you should”, comes to mind.
Great Examples of Parallax Utilization:
Whiteboard.is – Very cool! Not over done. Parallax supports this company’s goals very well, illustrating their point beautifully.
Peugeot – Kind of a cool idea and goes to what I was saying.
TooYoungToWed – Simple. Beautiful. (Heartbreaking!) And a good example of an ideal use of Parallax.
Clearly, the web introduced all sorts of new ideas and capabilities to this old idea, adding many layers of possibilities (programmable-ness). You can make it do all sort of crazy and amazing things. But there’s also a lot it can’t do. Scrolling of any kind is linear. So if you’re thinking of having a 100% Parallax driven real estate site I can promise you two things. 1) Your visitors will be absolutely amazed at your new site, and 2) They’ll get pissed and leave.
I actually find it amazing that this is even being talked about right now. Every guru, every marketer and every consumer has spend the better part of the past 5 years pushing for shorter paths to resources, more direct messages and in many cases fewer bells and whistles. Remember Flash and how for almost a decade every site you went to had a useless opening animation you had to sit through before you could do what you wanted or get to what you needed? This threatens to be Flash all over again.
And let’s be real: Flash didn’t die because of Apple or changes in the tech. It died because people simply don’t have time for this crap. Overuse of Parallax will produce the same result, not to mention that like Flash, so much of what will find its way onto unsuspecting sites will probably suck.
All that said, there are GREAT ways Real Estate can use Parallax to get ahead of the digital curve, the best of which (IMHO) is in telling stories. I can see Parallax being an incredible way to interact with web users, provided they know what they’re getting when they navigate to it. As an alternative to video, I think it could ROCK! As a new way of presenting data — a sort of info-graphic 2.0 if you will. There’s a lot of room for extremely wide acceptance of the Parallax method in the Real Estate space. I just hope we keep a leash on this monster and don’t use it to make the same old mistakes.
Be well my friends.