How Web Animation Can Influence Web Usability

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UI/UX Designer
Apr 16, 2021

Web animations are becoming the standard for effective, interactive design. Simple web animations that happen as a visitor is scrolling through a web page can draw attention to an element, demonstrate a product, bring awareness to a promotion, or highlight new site features. 

These small movements help to bring life to our websites and increase engagement and affinity for an otherwise static interaction. Take a look at more reasons why our UI/UX design team is a big fan of web animations.

Web animation isn’t a gimmick — it’s a tool.

While the desire for website animation has increased, limited budgets can be a barrier for some clients. This can also increase the risk of web animations being done cheaply or being used in ways that aren’t purposeful.

Integrity is known for sophisticated web design which is why we’ve developed best practices for web animations to ensure we aren’t veering off into novelty territory. We would never recommend or implement web animation that didn’t enhance the user experience.

And as the demand for web animation increases, more and more tools are being developed to simplify the process of website animation, for both creation and implementation.

Creating web animation with Webflow

We’ve mentioned in the past how valuable no-code tools can be when time is limited and developer resources are in short supply. This is particularly true when considering web animations, so we’ll be focusing on how Integrity leverages one of our favorite no-code tools, Webflow, to enhance our clients’ sites. 

Webflow's interactions and animations tools bring all the power of CSS and JavaScript into a completely visual tool, empowering designers to build complex, rich animations without ever thinking about code. This gives a designer free rein to design web animations without having to rely on a developer, saving time and money.

The 3 most effective types of website animation 

Web animation can encompass both motion graphics and storytelling reals. The three most commonly used animation types can be seen widely across websites of various industries when sites are loading, when users are navigating and operating through a menu, and when hovering.

Let’s dive deeper into how each of these operates and improves the experience and usability of a site.

 1. Loading Animations

While users may want everything in an instant the fact remains that certain online processes require loading time. Rather than having the user look at what appears to be a frozen page, loading animations can be used to create a fun experience while waiting. You can consider it a “squirrel,” or a distraction for the user.

Loading animations are popular for landing pages and other simple sites that rely on the beauty of minimalism and flat design to present an aesthetically efficient web experience.

In Webflow, it’s easy to make a loading animation. You just need to export your Lottie animation from After Effects using the bodymovin plugin and upload it to your Webflow project. You can add a mouse tap or click animation to this Lottie animation once you upload it. Exact instructions can be found on Webflow University.

 2. Navigation and Menu Animations (Non-scrolling)

Navigation is one of the most common locations for animation on a website. Hidden navigation has become particularly trendy today, as they provide a smoother user experience and are ideal for mobile when space is limited.

You only need to click on the icon to be directed to the next stage. Designers use this technique to save more whitespace on the screen. This also keeps the user focused on the main area of a website where the most valuable elements are being presented. 

Webflow makes this particular type of web animation incredibly easy to create and implement. You can also choose a hidden default navigation for different devices which can match user demands.

3. Hover Animation and Feedback

Hover animations are what we use to convey that an element is interactive. In some cases, this might be the only sign that a button or piece of text is clickable. When a user is in doubt over how an element functions, they tend to move the mouse over it anyway, making hover animations fairly intuitive and therefore highly effective.

Heatmaps show us that this type of instant feedback creates such a magnetic effect that it’s difficult to stop hovering on the objects again and again. These small but playful web animations are an elegant way to bring interaction and engagement into your user experience.

But be careful not to overdo it. Excessive hover animations can quickly turn your site into a whack-a-mole page. As with all web animations, hover animations need to provide value to the user by assisting them in getting to information faster at the point at which they need it.

Hover animations are particularly useful for the following purposes:

  • Link states
  • Button states
  • Form elements
  • To highlight and image or content
  • To supply a helpful error message
3D hover interactions by Andy Selimov for Fireart Studio


But wait — there’s more you can do with web animations

While loading, navigation and hover web animations are the most common, Integrity employs a wider variety of web animations to add depth and usability to our client’s websites. 

Welcoming Animations

Your homepage is your front door. It’s where your users will formulate first impressions, and it happens instantly. Greeting animations can help you engage users from the start and if your greeting animation is entertaining you increase the likelihood of them continuing further into your site and even sharing your site with others.

To create a welcome animation in Webflow you’ll need to design it in After Effect then export this as a lottie animation and upload it to Webflow. 

Galleries and Slideshows

Galleries and slideshow animations are a favorite designer feature when we need to save space and when we want to tell a story. Users who have a preference for visual storytelling are instantly engaged and users who prefer more traditional written content don’t have to scroll down through huge blocks of graphics before reaching copy.

One thing you should bear in mind when using this animation technique is the number of images to include and the speed at which the images are moving. The speed is more important because it can create an unpleasant experience for the user if it animates too fast, so ensure you show each image for 5 to 9 seconds.

Webflow's Slick Slider


There is a default slider block provided if you build a slideshow in Webflow, giving the user even more control over the gallery experience. Slides, like div blocks or sections, can contain other components as well. You can drop a container in the slide and add the content as you want. 

Scrolling

The success of long-scrolling navigation relies on the quality of its animation. A site simply can’t scroll smoothly without it. The main advantage of scrolling is the control it gives to the user, and for that, animation dictates the pace.

When a page is particularly heavy with written content, web animations help to break content into segments so you can re-engage users who may be only lightly scanning. The goal is always to increase engagement while decreasing the workload for the user. 

Webflow's Parallax Scrolling

For the scrolling animation in Webflow, it can be made using gallery and div blocks with scrolling animation in the interaction setting area. You can control the speed and smoothness of those animations easily.

Storytelling

Modern users are more interested in products and services if a brand introduces them to customers in a storytelling format. Animated storytelling has become another popular type of animation for the web.

They help introduce a brand creatively and establish emotional bonds between users and a company. Usually, storytelling website animation effects are used in long-reads on a website, as this format is the most convenient to tell a comprehensive and engaging story.

We mentioned the importance of web animations for scrolling success. When done well, you achieve Scrollytelling. Scrollytelling is especially well-suited for a story with a distinct chronology. As events unfold, you can use the design to make the who and what come alive.

Scrollytelling can be thought of as visual storytelling that heightens a story and hooks you into its narrative. Borrowing from one-page and landing-page layouts makes the details dance and prompts you to scroll further.

With Webflow, it is easy to make storytelling.bg for your website like scrolling animation. 

Webflow's Scrollytelling Guide


Progress Bar

Similar to a loading animation, this type of animation shows the visitor their progression using a linear sequence. Progress is commonly displayed using the classic loading bar, but multi-step linear progress animation is gaining in popularity.


With Webflow, it’s easy to create a progress bar which can be easily adjusted to match your design.

Web animations need to be on-brand

While this isn’t an exhaustive list of every web animation you could employ, it is a deep starting set that could drastically improve the web usability and user experience of your website. But don’t just jump to creation and implementation as your starting point. You need to think about the brand.

Animations are now part of brand identity and guidelines, too. Just like colors, voice, shadows and illustrations, animations convey a specific message and meaning. The documentation of animations is therefore increasingly being included in design systems.

Google was one of the first companies to do this when they featured a whole section dedicated to “Understanding motion” in its “Material Design” system.

Here are the recommendations for what to document related to web animations within your design system:

  • The purpose of animations: When and why to animate (Firefox has some interesting “motion principles," for example)
  • The different types of animations: What to animate (loaders, transitions, interactions, etc.)
  • Timings and easing: If you want to maintain consistency in your design system, all animations need to have the same kind of timing and easing.

Some final thoughts on why web animation matters

The illusion of motion on the web, when applied correctly, tells website users that they have actually done something. They have successfully interacted with the interface and have caused something to change. This triggers the same feelings (or at least very similar feelings) in them as the ones they experience when they interact with physical objects.

In a way, animation is skeuomorphic (that’s right, I said the “s” word). When implemented correctly, web animation is designed to mimic real-world interactions and the more you can make your users feel connected and engaged with your brand through your website, the better.

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Looking for a St. Louis UI/UX design team that can bring your site to life? Integrity’s full-service design/build agency is here to help. Drop us a line today.

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