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Animation in UI design: From Soup to Nuts


Animation in UI design


The concept of animation in UI design is as important to UI design as oxygen is to human beings. It helps bring out key elements of the layout, shifts the user’s focus onto things that need attention, and just gives a great look and feel to the platform design. Although it has its fair share of critics, there is no denying that animation provides a different, seemingly complicated but easy-on-the-eye screen for a user to look at. It really aids in the effective processing of microinteractions, with increased efficiency, and also to solve a variety of other problems that users face while using an app or a product. Many developers and professionals believe that animation is a useless and clunky feature that does nothing but increase the size of the platform. Studies have shown that apps with animation are bound to do better than static ones, because of the look and feel which supports the essence of real interaction. Animation creates an environment wherein users get a taste of how they would interact with a physical object in real life. Here, we discuss the different aspects of animation, and why is it so important for UX and UI design.


Need for animation in UI design

Animation in UI design provides developers with ways to better interact with their users, letting them know about things currently in progress, things completed, time remaining and other variables. Buttons, sliders, menu animations, swiping actions and all that good stuff is very much needed to help give your app that cutting edge, that X-factor for it to be successful in the heavily-competitive market. So, what is the need for animation for UI and UX purposes? What problems can it solve? Let us discuss.


  • Action progress and time remaining

Sometimes, developers and designers add all required features to their app, all the essential processes, but what they forget to add is progress indicators and timers. Often, when people initiate any activity, they want to know on a regular basis variable like time remaining, percentage progress completed, time elapsed, and other indicators. This is where animation in UI design comes into play, usually with the help of pull-to-refresh actions and preloaders, along with pull down screen layouts to ensure that users have the required info available to them at all times. Also, progress bars and timelines can let people know about the progress and timing aspects of activities so that they know exactly how much longer they have to wait.


  • Action completion confirmation

One of the major problems in animation in UI design, designers often omit action completion indicators from their designs. This can leave users in uncertainty as to whether their desired activity has been completed or not. Adding animations using toggles, buttons, and elements such as hamburger buttons can help users avoid duplicate interactions and actions, particularly helpful in apps such as banking and transactions, where duplicate transactions can be detrimental. Microinteractions at this level of usage are fairly easy to implement with the help of animation in UI design, and would certainly increase the usability of your platform.


  • Clear and crisp navigation

How would you feel if you spend hours upon hours of work on a project, only for people to ignore the key aspects of what you’ve done? This is a problem you could potentially face if you do not focus on having a clear visual hierarchy and clear navigation structure on your platform. It can help in drawing attention to features and facts that are most essential, especially for interactive digital products. Animation in UI design here can help in the faster marking of essential visual elements in your design, using bright colors and other markers to draw the attention of your users towards things that really matter.


Animation in UI design


  • Clutter-free screens and layouts

Overloading of user screens with useless and obsolete facts and data will only make users quit using your app. Clear and clutter-free screens are very important from the designing aspect, as users today only want platforms that make for easy viewing and usage. Having a higher degree of complicated options will only make users work harder to find what they are looking for, something that no one wants to do. Animation in UI design here can help in the better organization of screens and data blocks, with cards, swipe screens, and menus ensuring users an ‘easy on the eye’ UX. Organization of relevant data and simple solutions to all problems is what will keep users glued to your app.


  • The need for natural-feeling interactions

This is a problem best defined by the ideology of ‘knowing that there’s something wrong, but not knowing exactly what it is’. When such a situation arises, the thing that is most often wrong is the feel of the interactions. Users like their interactions in apps to feel as if they were touching and holding a physical object, and although they might not appreciate the feel of these interactions, it will surely help them get used to the app quicker. Designers and developers can use animations to enhance actions such as touching on objects, pressing and holding, moving things out of the way and swiping. Making your users feel comfortable while on your app is something that you can achieve effortlessly with animation.

  • Adding a bit of spice to your platform

Visual beauty and aesthetics play a big role in determining if users are going to like your app or not. If your screens are vibrant and visually pleasing, obviously, users will feel more inclined towards using your app, and animation in UI design, yet again, can help you achieve this. Colour gradients, smooth transitions, and visual effects can really bring out the best that you have to offer, and will surely make your users think that yes, this is the app for them, and it looks good too!


Conceptual animation

Animation in UI design is a field of multiple specializations. One such type is conceptual animation, which includes motion design and other elements created to test out or convey some thought before the development of the actual product. Conceptual animation is not a very popular concept among developers, but being the devil’s advocate, we believe that this can be applied to existing and to-be-developed apps and platforms in order to add an element of uniqueness and a different taste to your apps.

conceptual animation

Conceptual animations and design step aside from the traditional beliefs of animation in UI design and look to think out of the box by ignoring the already existing readymade solutions to problems and going beyond current rules and regulations. It is due to this very fact that conceptual animation is thought of as needless and controversial. Fresh and new design concepts using conceptual animation are usually caught on by some developer or designer who sees the potential in this animation type and looks for ways to apply them to real-life problems. It has been seen that even complex conceptual animation designs can be successfully coded by developers, even if it requires a bit of extra time and effort, the end result is worth it.


Some examples of animation in UI design concepts used in real-life applications

  • Opening menus

Animation in UI design techniques, especially conceptual animation, can add an increased amount of sheen and extravagance to even simple things such as opening menus and swiping to open side menus. Instead of a robust flow of objects from one side to another, designers can code the app in such a way that the flow of objects is gradual and makes it appear more natural. This is more aesthetically pleasing, although it might slow down the natural usage feel of the app.

  • Scrolling

While scrolling too, gradual flow instead of quick and snappy movement can help users get a more natural interaction feel. A little hold back while scrolling the cards adds a visual illusion of having more space in the layout, which can sometimes be pleasing for users to see. Also, it can add a bit of a fun element, while preserving the actual use of the action being performed. This type of scrolling is seen in many apps today, mainly the ones which have a lot of list interfaces, such as music players.

  • Transitions

Perhaps the most important aspects of an app where animation in UI design can be put to good use. Transitions are one of the most used functions, as users while operating an app need to click and move from one screen to another, from one interface to another. Ensuring a smooth transition is a must for designers since it determines a major part of the look and feel of your app. For example, transitioning from a list to a specific item with a few dynamics and conceptual animation can give your app an added sheen. Both smooth and visually pleasing, good transitions can be the difference between your app going viral and being lost in the crowd.


Animation in UI design: microinteractions

We’ve all heard the notion that ‘it’s the little things that matter’. Well, there could have been no bigger proof than microinteractions. As the name suggests, these are small visual changes that let you know if an action has been initiated, has been successfully completed, or other changes. When you click ‘like’ on a Facebook post, the button turning blue is an example of a microinteraction. This lets the user know that his/her like has been counted, and this is basically what microinteractions are for. They are perhaps the essence of good UI/UX design because attention to the smallest of details gives a good impression of your competence and care for users.

In most cases, designers code microinteractions in such a way that the user doesn’t even feel much of a hindrance or difference in operation, yet the difference is significant enough to affirm that an action has been performed. Making microinteractions as natural as possible is thus very important from both the design and the UI/UX point of view, and animations are a great way to do that. Here are some nifty tools and design elements that can be coded to exploit microinteractions effectively.


  • Refreshing animations

These have suddenly become the talk of the town. Almost all apps which have live update feeds and elements make use of a pull-to-refresh microinteraction when a user reaches the very top of the list. This is, hence, one of the first things coded into an application’s design, and involves many opportunities for creative branding and ideas.

  • Buttons

The simplest and most popular elements for microinteractions, buttons can be put to good use with the help of animations. Activation of different elements of the platform is usually achieved with the help of buttons, such as turning on the alarm on your phone makes the slider button go from greyed out left to active right. Thus, having a good mix of vibrant colors and effective animation in UI design can help improve the quality of microinteractions achieved with buttons.

  • Editing or formatting interactions

When we tap and hold to select an item, it usually becomes all greyed out. This is, again, an example of animations being used in microinteractions, which lets the user know that the given item has been selected and can now be acted upon. One of the simpler concepts to employ, selection microinteractions are most often used in list-based interfaces.


Animation in UI design


Utilizing animation in UI efficiently

In today’s age, where customers have millions of options to choose from, utilizing animation in UI design efficiently can help in giving your app an edge over other competitors. Making your platform stand out in terms of interface and usability is what you should be looking for when you are deploying animation concepts in your platform, and a perfect balance must be struck between visual aesthetics and usability. Fortunately, today, we have a lot of options to choose from when it comes to adding animations, such as conceptual animation and microinteractions, to enhance your app’s UX and UI design.


How Sodio can help

At Sodio, we have a great UI/UX development and design team, that can help you integrate animations into your UI, and ultimately build up your user retention stats. Our designs are state-of-the-art and visually pleasing, along with being efficient and fast. With a talented team of designers, we are sure to leave you satisfied with our work, and we can assure you that your users will love your platform!


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