The Beginner’s Guide to UI Animation

When you think about animation, the first thing that pops up in your mind is most likely animated films or television series. But there’s another industry that uses animation, albeit not in the way you think – web development.

While this may come as a shock to you, chances are that you’ve probably seen it on a website or mobile app but didn’t notice.

We’re talking about UI animation: the visual effects added to website elements to make them interactive. You know, when you move a mouse cursor to a call to action (CTA), it changes its appearance.

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If this is your first foray into the world of animation or you’re a UI designer looking to incorporate animation in your creations, welcome. In this blog post, we’ll cover the basics of UI animation.

So, let us begin:

Dissecting UI Animation

UI animation, which stands for user interface animation, refers to the usage of interactive motions and transitions in a digital product. It can be anything: a website, mobile app, or software.

Although designers add interactive elements for plenty of reasons, the primary objective is to enhance user experience.

In the initial stages, when UI animation had recently become a ‘thing,’ designers used to FLOOD their creations with colorful animated gifs. However, it became too gaudy for visitors, and they started complaining.

It even resulted in websites losing visitors.

Eventually, designers learned the psychology of colors, each associated with a different emotion.

(On a related note, if you’d like to read more about how colors impact viewers, read our blog, The Importance of Colors in Animation.)

Today, designers treat UI animation as a decorative item, meticulously incorporating it into a design so it flows smoothly.

It’s important not to interchange UI animation with motion graphics. While both have something to do with visual elements, they are different.

Motion graphics may be used in various other mediums, such as films and televisions. UI animation, on the other hand, is strictly confined to websites, software, and apps.

Understanding Different Types of UI Animation

UI animation types can be divided into the following four types:

1. Loading: Have you ever played a video game where they display an element to show that the game is loading? Perhaps an hourglass or the studio’s logo. Some websites, while loading, show a similar symbol.


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2. Progress: Next up, we have progress. In most cases, it’s a bar on top that shows how far you’ve performed a particular task. For instance, these days, it’s common for blog-based websites to use this. When you start reading the blog, the bar will be empty. However, as you proceed, the bar will slowly fill, showing your progress.

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3. State Changes: When you’re installing software, there’s a long list of terms and conditions, and at the end, there’s a tick. It’s coupled with a CTA, which is often dark. Unless you check the tick, you won’t be able to click the CTA. When you check the tick, the CTA becomes clickable. This small transition is known as a state change.

4. Microinteraction: Every time a notification pops up on your phone, it takes the form of UI animation. It could be a box or a round bubble. This type is called microinteraction. Apart from notifications, you’ll see this in page transitions, content loading, and more.

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Tips for Using UI Animation Without Going Overboard

We established in the beginning that you have to be really careful with how you use UI animation. If it’s not sophisticated, your strategy to attract more visitors will backfire.

But there’s no need to worry. We’re sharing a few tried and tested tips for using animation in UI that you must keep in mind.

Give It a Purpose

Every animation should serve a purpose. Maybe it’s guiding the user’s attention or providing feedback. And if it doesn’t have a specific objective, that’s completely fine, too. Just be sure to consider the background elements where it’s used.

Keep the Transitions Smooth

UI animation is all about the transition. So, the smoother it is, the more attractive it’ll be. On the other hand, if the transition is clunky, it’ll produce a negative impression on the visitors.

Maintain Consistency

Consistency plays a crucial role in UI animation, delivering a cohesive user experience. It also contributes to a strong brand identity and establishes trust. Maintaining consistency is also important because it provides a clear direction to visitors instead of confusing them.

Consider Performance Optimization

Your UI animation should be optimized for mobile devices. This part is essential because animations in designs are heavy and may impact the performance of the website. So, make sure it doesn’t hinder the overall experience of the user with slow speed.

Prioritize Usability Above Everything Else

It’s easy to use flashy UI animation on your website or application. But it’ll become a distraction instead of a primary focal point. Hence, prioritize usability over putting up a dog and pony show. To get an idea of whether users will like a certain element, make it available for beta users first. And use the feedback to improve or make changes.

Provide Feedback on User Interactions

When a user clicks something, they must be made aware whether their action resulted in a reaction. For example, make the CTA change color when the user clicks it, indicating that their response has been recorded.

Make the UI Animation Follow Real Life

One of the biggest principles of animation, according to numerous experts, is that it should mimic real life. This means objects and characters should move as they do in reality.

Let’s say you have a volume knob on the screen. When users rotate it clockwise, it should increase the volume. Similarly, the volume should decrease when users rotate it anti-clockwise.

Last Words: Until the Next Blog

There are many techniques for using animation in UI, each with plenty of room for creativity. Ultimately, it’s the test of your skills. The more out-of-the-box you think, the better it’ll translate to the website, software, or app.

Just remember the primary objective of UI animation, i.e., enhancing user experience, and it’s guaranteed to produce positive results for your business.