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Parallax Scrolling in Premium Website Themes, Fall 2014

Parallax scrolling in website design adds simulated depth and interactivity to websites. This effect creates the illusion of three dimensions by scrolling different layers of the website at different speeds. When done well, the result is a website that is more engaging to visitors with visual interest beyond a simple, static webpage.

Our research shows that parallax scrolling is an increasingly prevalent design element among premium website themes that are sold on Theme Forest. We examined the number of new website themes that advertise parallax scrolling in their description, and counted them on a monthly basis. We then compared these to the total number of new themes published in each month, yielding the proportion of themes with parallax scrolling.

Figure 1: The number of premium website themes published on Theme Forest per month advertising parallax scrolling. This pattern is similar to the total number of website themes published in each month.

Number of Website Themes with Parallax Effects

The number of website themes with parallax scrolling has grown substantially over the 29 months examined. From July 2012 to October 2014, the number of website themes with parallax scrolling effects has grown from 11 themes in April 2012 to a maximum of 212 themes in April 2014.

However, the number of website new themes with parallax effects has followed a similar pattern to the total number of website themes published on Theme Forest. We found that the total number of new themes has grown steadily from July 2012 to April 2014. In May though, the total number of new themes published dropped by 25% and continued decreasing.

We see a similar pattern here. The number of new themes published monthly dropped in April 2014, and the average number of themes published monthly, providing parallax scrolling, continues to diminish.

Proportion of Parallax Website Themes

Figure 2: The proportion of premium website themes published in each month on Theme Forest with parallax scrolling, compared to the total number of themes published in each respective month.

The proportion of premium website themes with parallax scrolling has risen substantially since July 2012. We divided the number of new website themes with parallax scrolling effects published per month by the total number of themes published in that month. This gave us the proportion of website themes with parallax scrolling effects.

Starting in July, 2012, the number of new website themes published that advertise parallax scrolling elements was 3.9% (11 themes out of 279). Since then, the proportion of new themes published advertising parallax scrolling has grown to 29.4% in October 2014 (139 themes of 473 new themes published).

Using a simple linear regression analysis, the proportion of website themes with parallax scrolling has grown by approximately 1.1% per month. This shows a very strong growth trend, indicating the popularity of parallax scrolling among premium website themes.

Conclusions

These findings show that parallax scrolling is a very popular design element for premium website themes. While not directly indicating that parallax scrolling is desired among website theme customers, it does show that designers increasingly think that customers desire it.

Previously found only in expensive, highly-customized designs, website themes are providing interactivity and depth for customers using parallax scrolling. Although parallax scrolling is no longer a differentiating quality among websites, it is an expected visual effect. The interactivity and visual depth provides an improved level of engagement, attracting visitors’ attention and potentially keeping them on the page longer.

We expect that the proportion of website themes providing or featuring parallax scrolling will continue to increase, to the point where it becomes a necessary element expected by website theme designers, as opposed to a differentiating between website themes. At the current growth rate, as calculated using a simple linear regression, it will take an additional 13.5 months (December 2015) before more than 50% of themes provide parallax scrolling.

We suggest that the visual effects provided through parallax scrolling may loosely mirror the evolution of video games. Similarly to how video games evolved from using purely 2D graphs, to parallax-based “2.5D", and then to 3D-rendered graphics, we conclude that website design will continue to evolve to improve immersion and interactivity.

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