The Potential Drawbacks of Parallax: SEO and Usability
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Parallax is a hot topic at The Jibe, and in this post we’re bringing the dark side to light. Yes, parallax can be visually engaging; but negative implications for search engine optimization and usability can be significant.
Parallax and SEO
Maximizing for search terms is difficult in one long page, and heading tags are key to search engine ranking. Headings define a page hierarchy, divide text and differentiate sections. This structure is important to search engine spiders, which check for header consistency with associated content. Most search engines are concerned with user-experience, and since headers cue page content to the reader, a lack thereof can decrease ranking.
Google recommends a single heading 1 (H1) per web page. This heading is the most important for key search terms, and opportunities to incorporate them are lost on a parallax website comprised of only one long page, as opposed to a site with multiple pages and H1s.
Going deeper, metadata appears only once in the head of a document and is limited in length. Across a usual site there would be unique metadata on each page pertaining to the content of that page. With a parallax site, there is an SEO risk in trying to fit an entire site description into one tag.
In turn, the usually long load time of graphic-heavy parallax sites holds them down in rankings.
Parallax and User Concerns
Parallax can also impede usability across the board. Right off the bat, users may abandon because of the long load time. Mobile devices often have a hard time accommodating parallax and some parts of the site may not function properly.
Since the site provides a single url, sharing specific content with friends or on social media is made difficult–a link sharing something of interest mid-page will drop visitors at the top.
The needs of users visiting the site should be considered before a parallax implementation; the effect could be totally unnecessary and thwart their purpose. Along with impeding navigation, the sites primary message may be lost in all the flashiness.
Where does parallax leave one in terms of analytics? Site administrators miss out on information about where traffic is being lost and where time is being spent.
See successful implementations of parallax, here.