Motion Sickness: Why Your Website Needs to Chill Out

Girl with motion sickness

I often get requests from clients around adding text that moves, videos at the top of the Home page, etc.There’s been a lot of research into how people REALLY use web pages, and some of the key findings include:

  • Unexpected movement is a distraction…
  • The movement that people can’t control is an irritant…
  • Text that moves when they’re trying to read is irritating…

Several studies have been conducted to understand how people interact with web pages and what elements affect their experience. Some of the key findings support the statements above. Let’s discuss each point with relevant research and reasoning:

  1. Unexpected movement is a distraction: Users generally prefer a stable and predictable browsing experience. When there are unexpected movements or animations, it can be distracting and disorienting. This can be especially problematic for people with cognitive disabilities, ADHD, or vestibular disorders. Research by Nielsen Norman Group found that users generally ignore elements that resemble advertisements or auto-play videos due to their unexpected movements and distractions.
  2. The movement that people can’t control is an irritant: When users don’t have control over the movement of elements on a web page, it can lead to frustration and a negative user experience. For example, auto-scrolling or auto-advancing slideshows can make it difficult for users to absorb the content at their preferred pace. The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) recommend providing user controls to pause, stop, or hide moving, blinking, or scrolling content that lasts longer than five seconds.
  3. Text that moves when they’re trying to read is irritating: Reading text is a fundamental aspect of using the web, and moving text makes it difficult to focus and comprehend the content. For instance, text animations like marquee, scrolling, or blinking can hinder readability and comprehension. The WCAG guidelines specifically advise against using moving or scrolling text unless it can be paused, stopped, or hidden by the user. A study by Bernard, Fernandez, and Hull investigated the effects of text scrolling speed on reading comprehension and found that slower scrolling speeds resulted in higher comprehension scores, but overall, static text was preferred by users.

These findings emphasize the importance of creating a stable, user-friendly, and accessible web experience, as unexpected movements or uncontrollable animations can negatively impact user engagement, satisfaction, and accessibility.

It’s always important to consider several factors when adding features (not just ones that move) to your website. Here are some things to consider:

  1. Define the objective: Clearly outline the purpose and goals of adding the new feature(s). Ensure that they align with the overall mission of your service-based business and cater to the needs of your target audience.
  2. Assess user experience: Determine if the new feature(s) will enhance user experience and engagement. Make sure they do not negatively impact usability, navigation, or overwhelm your users.
  3. Consider the impact on load speed: Evaluate how the addition of new features, especially those involving media or animations, will affect your website’s loading speed. Optimize file sizes and use techniques such as lazy loading or content delivery networks (CDNs) to minimize negative impacts on performance.
  4. Ensure accessibility: Make sure the new feature(s) are accessible to all users, including those with disabilities. This includes proper use of alternative text for images, captions for videos, and appropriate ARIA tags for screen readers.
  5. Maintain responsiveness: Ensure that the new feature(s) work well on various devices and screen sizes. Test the features on multiple devices to guarantee a seamless experience for all users.
  6. Keep SEO in mind: Be mindful of the impact the new feature(s) may have on your website’s search engine optimization (SEO). Optimize your content and media for search engines, and avoid practices that could negatively affect your rankings.
  7. Prioritize ease of maintenance: Choose features that can be easily managed and updated within your WordPress environment. Consider using plugins or themes that are regularly maintained and compatible with your current setup.
  8. Follow web design best practices: Ensure the new feature(s) adhere to general web design principles, such as consistency, simplicity, and focus on content hierarchy.
  9. Monitor and analyze user behavior: After implementing the new feature(s), track user interactions using tools like Google Analytics. Evaluate user engagement and feedback to identify areas for improvement or potential removal if they don’t add value to your website.
  10. Plan for updates and iterations: Continuously refine and enhance your website’s features based on user feedback and analytics. Keep an eye on industry trends and emerging technologies to ensure your website stays relevant and competitive.

By following this list of considerations, you can make informed decisions when adding features to any website, ensuring that they are beneficial, user-friendly, and align with the website’s objectives.