The design community is usually torn between two opinions; whether using animation truly adds value to the interaction experience, or is it simply a fancy, unnecessary feature to include. Here at ProCreator, we believe in the former. Animation helps recreate real-life experiences for the user while interacting with the product, similar to the ones he has while interacting with physical objects in real life. Many interaction designers usually cook up interface animations intending to add just the element of delight, while neglecting the other key ingredients; functionality and a feeling of naturalness, which keep the users satisfied and attached to your product. How can we ensure that the use of animation refines our user’s experience?
Keep it Functional
Functional animations are embedded in an interface to perform logical operations. They guide the user through a process without cognitive load and provide feedback. The subtle ‘pull to refresh’ animation that plays when you pull down a webpage on your mobile browser is an example of functional animation. It provides feedback to the user that the page is being refreshed.
Make it Feel Natural
The interaction with the UI should feel natural since the animation makes the elements act as the user expects them to act based on his real-world experience. When you click a button on a website, it pushes itself down and pops back up, similar to how a physical button in the real-world does.
The human eyes are hardwired to pay attention to moving objects. On an inanimate user interface, even a slight movement of one object automatically attracts the user’s attention. This power of animation can be used to make the user focus on what’s important. In Resonance, we made the notification icon shake whenever the user received a new notification, thus attracting his attention and making sure that he didn’t miss any important update.
Say you dragged a file to Google Drive, released your mouse button, and nothing happened. Is the file getting uploaded? Has the upload failed? There’s no way to know that until the cute little popup with a loader bar comes to the rescue. Feedback animations like loading are a medium of responding to the user the outcome of his actions. On login screens, I prefer inserting a shake animation when a user enters an incorrect password. This animation notifies the user of his error, in a manner which resembles the human behavior of shaking one’s head to deny something.
For the user experience to be spot on, it takes more than just making a product usable. The design should be good enough to invoke a feeling of delight in the user’s mind. Animation can help you invoke this feeling. An attractive onboarding experience makes an impactful first impression on the user and motivates him to explore the app further.
Soften State Change
On tapping an actionable button on one screen, if a user is taken to another screen without any animated transitions to link the two, it becomes difficult for him/her to process this abrupt change of state. These changes between states should be softened by introducing an intermediary animation to link the two. The user will simply have to follow this animation to comprehend the relation between the UI states.
Providing direction to a user through animation guides him to perform an action and achieve his goal. Apple’s classic ‘slide to unlock’ tells the user, through animating arrows, the direction he needs to move the slider towards to unlock his phone. Another case where animation provides an orientation to the user is when he receives a phone call and needs to slide the receive or reject buttons in particular directions to perform the respective actions.
Shows Cause and Effect
Informing the user and keeping him in sync with the change that happened in the interface that he just interacted with avoids confusion. On tapping the ‘View More’ button in a card, it expands vertically by growing in size and shrinks when the user taps on ‘View Less.’ This shows the user the result of the action he performed.
Animation breathes life into a user interface. And apart from just delivering delight, it helps your product keep the user satisfied and reduces cognitive load by being functional.