What are special effects?
Special effects can be considered anything that falls outside of the norm of plain text and images on a website. Think parallax scrolling (when the image and text scroll at different rates), video backgrounds, text that moves, and any animations.
When done right, special effects on a website can be awesome. They can elevate your brand and give your users a great experience. Unfortunately, it can be tempting to go overboard. Special effects done wrong can lead to a messy and confusing user experience.
Can I see an example of special effects?
Sure! My client, Laura Cohen, is a San Francisco-based photographer, choreographer, curator, and musician. When Laura came to me with the idea of creating a new site, I knew we needed something special to show off her work.
To make this happen, I created a site for Laura that used parallax scrolling and full-width video backgrounds to give the visitor an immersive experience of her artwork.
You can see her site at lauracohen.art
Interested in using special effects on your own site? Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
1. Know why
Fancy effects work best when they’re used in service of your goals. So take some time and ask yourself why. What about this effect appeals to you? What strategic purpose does it serve? (Hint: “it looks cool” isn’t a good answer to this question).
2. Know your user
How will this effect impact your user’s experience? Does it enhance it? Does it make your work more accessible? Be honest here and reconsider if the answer is “no.”
3. Less is more
Like a sprinkle of chili flakes over avocado toast, special effects should be used as a garnish, not the main dish. Use sparingly for best results.
Bonus tip: Have a backup plan
Stuff happens on the internet. Videos fail, pages don’t load correctly, and mobile browsers might not support the effect you’ve chosen. Whatever it is, you’ll want a backup plan. For example, if Laura’s full-width background videos fail to load (or if you’re browsing on a phone), you’ll see gorgeous black and white photos of her instead. The experience is different, but still good.