One of the chief jobs of a web designer is to move people. It could be in a small way, such as prompting site visitors to take actions, like clicking on a link in the user experience (UX) interface, or in a big way, such as converting a customer to paid business in the sales funnel.
One of the primary ways of moving people when building a website is the art of movement: animation.
If you’re looking at how to animate websites effectively, this guide will cover:
- What is website animation?
- Web animation benefits for user
- Most popular types of animations for websites
- Common animation languages
- How to get started with web animations for your website
- Bring your website to life with the right animation
What is website animation?
Website animations are moving images that a web designer uses to capture visitors’ attention and often direct them to take certain actions. They can be small animations that draw a user’s eye to a specific element, convey a marketing message, or help users move through a webpage more naturally.
Website animation can also show the steps of a complex process, create interactive elements, tell stories (such as tutorials), and convey progression (such as a time-bar).
If used well, animations can make your website come to life and hold visitors’ attention (and they don’t necessarily add a lot to the cost of building a website). However, if used improperly, they can cause discord, frustration, and poor customer experiences.
Web animation benefits for users
Web animation isn’t just pretty moving pictures. It’s a powerful user engagement tool designed to deliver specific results, with measurable key performance indicators (KPIs).
The kind of results delivered depends on the use of animation, whether for advertising, launches of products or services, content, or educational purposes.
Animations for websites can serve to:
Increase user engagement
The purpose of web animations is to create positive interactions. You can measure engagement by how many people click on animations and watch it through to the end and perhaps share across social media.
The animations can be run on their own or even add interactive elements, such as this site for a gaming company whose animations move with your cursor as you drag it across the screen.
From the comments left by users, you can gauge the extent of the impact of the animation on them. Comments and feedback will further highlight what works and what doesn’t for future animations, marketing campaigns, product launches, or tutorials.
Increase user retention
To guarantee retention of viewers, align visuals and emotional content with strong messaging. More than any other medium, animation creates strong emotional bonds that can lead to greater engagement in the content and a stronger bond to your brand.
Animation for websites can hold visitors on your site longer, lowering your bounce rate. It can increase the level of interest in your site, encourage more shares, and boost site traffic.
One way to get retention is to use a gaming format animation, such as this game agency that offers their Jeopardy game template to engage viewers while educating them.
Increase higher-quality brand association
Not only can animation for websites create engagement, but it can also help define a brand. For example, Headspace, the mediation app, has used simple animations to convey the benefits it provides, helping to relieve stress and provide more restful sleep.
The same animations are used as the foundation of the Headspace Guide to Meditation playing on Netflix, billed as an “interactive experience.” The strength of the brand engagement might be measured by the number of viewers and how long they spend with the streaming content.
Simplify complex stories and messages
With its combination of moving graphics, colors, music, voice, and text, web animations can reach people on many levels, conveying more pertinent information in shorter periods.
Because animations can convey information simply and powerfully, they’re great for explainer videos or storyboards that outline how a video shoot for a marketing campaign might go down. 3D and 2D cinematics could be used as storyboard tests for products and characters and easily revised to improve testing results.
Showing how a complex subject can be made understandable, HubSpot, an inbound marketing company, uses animation effectively to explain artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Most popular types of animations for websites
Animations for websites can do the heavy lifting, such as providing a spectacular 3D animation to introduce a site or offer subtle but important user interface (UI) effects, such as hovering functionality that may signal clickable links in text or buttons as you pass over.
The following are some of the most popular and useful animations you can incorporate into your website designs.
Three dimensional (3D) animation involves computer-generated objects moving through what looks like 3D space, often rotating and reacting according to real-life principles. Web designers use 3D animations to create more realistic and complex visuals (some even mix 3D and 2D animations to achieve even more sophisticated experiences). It’s possible to have interactive 3D web animations that react to key clicks, mouse clicks, button clicks, and finger movements on mobile devices.
Often, these are placed on the homepage of a website, with a powerful visual to greet visitors. 3D animations can also transform the interface of a digital product that you’re thinking of redesigning.
This site for Capsul’in Zero Impact uses 3D animation effectively to demonstrate the environmentally friendly benefits of the world’s first certified home compostable coffee capsule compatible with the Nespresso system.
Video animation uses drawings, illustration, computer-generated effects, and original designs set in motion to tell compelling stories in different ways. It may integrate live action.
Animated videos provide a compelling, cost-effective way to tell stories, allowing a lot of creativity to bring concepts to life, which would be too difficult and costly with live-action videos. They make it easy to present abstract ideas and difficult concepts, breaking them down into simple scenes that lend themselves, especially to explainer videos. Animated videos can help highlight the most important points about your company or goods in a memorable, easy-to-grasp manner.
A loading animation is an animated element on a webpage that shows its loading progress. While computer and internet speeds are faster than ever, people still become impatient with loading times for webpages. In some cases, they’ll go somewhere else if they’re kept waiting for more than a couple of seconds. Keeping visitors engaged is where loading animations come in—keeping people entertained while the page or video loads.
An animated logo is a modern, dynamic way to present a brand, bringing imagination into the equation, driving higher brand awareness, and evoking strong emotions. Besides their use on company websites, animated logos may also be deployed on social media channels, in promotional videos, and presentations.
The simple upward slide and fade of the black logo for Lux Capital captures the eye more effectively than the still logo below it, which works much harder with its black, gray, and white color scheme.
An online image gallery is like a digital photo album, where you can upload your photos to be stored, organized, and shared with other people. You can use a slideshow effect to see multiple images on the screen simultaneously or use a carousel to view them one by one. Image galleries used this way can save space on your site, tell stories through their arrangement, highlight certain products, or relay information about your company or brand.
Image galleries are easy for people to relate to because they mimic real-life photo album presentations. They offer self-guided or independent running options. This way, the viewer has enough space to absorb what is being conveyed by one screen before going to the next. These are relatively easy to implement, but the timing properties of transitions between images have to be right.
InteriorLAB, a U.K. interior design company, uses a horizontal scroll of its work, with expanding image windows, particularly well to emphasize the quality of its work.
Kinetic typography animation
Animated typography or kinetic typography is any kind of text that moves, whether it expands, shrinks, morphs, flickers, appears letter by letter, or just slowly changes position. Of course, it serves to catch the viewer’s eyes more effectively than static type, emphasizing the meaning of the text and conveying emotion.
Type animations can be standalone effects or interactive ones. For example, Yalantis, a software engineering and IT consulting company, greets visitors to their homepage with a large letter “Y” that they can create effects with by moving their cursors.
Animation can be used to create whole-page motions on a site, such as a simple shake or a virtual pan. While not having many practical benefits as far as the UI (except perhaps calling attention to a page and the action or information conveyed), page motion can make a site stand out. Perhaps by catching the eye with a page that shakes itself like a wet dog shedding water. You can find the CSS code to a simple image shake on W3Schools.
Unlike static website image backgrounds, dynamic backgrounds move constantly, sometimes according to how a user interacts with a page or moves a mobile device. Animated backgrounds on a site help it stand out. But a dynamic background can be an annoying distraction if it doesn’t have a firm purpose, complementing existing site content.
Dynamic background animations should also not make content harder to see, so a simple approach to this effect is often the key to its success, perhaps animating only parts of the background at a time or animating the whole image in small, gentle increments.
For example, this website for a Japanese event, wedding, and hospitality company uses a gently undulating ribbon in the background and a soothing music track to present and connect its offerings.
Navigation and menu animation
Navigation and menu transitions use motion to guide users between two pages on a site or app. Transitions, especially in mobile applications, provide design continuity, linking shared elements from one view to the next as users navigate the app.
Recently, more web developers have been employing hidden navigation menus revealed when you click a button or icon. Sidebar navigation menus enable users to access your menu without scrolling. Sliding menus can also be located at the top of screens, providing needed navigation information to users without crowding out content.
Collage is a studio that makes a wide range of hand-crafted objects. Hover over its pink menu icon, and it turns white, and its lines of different lengths become the same size. Clicking on it leads to a full-screen menu that boasts a unique design.
With different types of animated scrolling, this type of animation moves as the user scrolls the page. They give control to the user and complement interactive design elements of a site. Different types of animated scrolling include one-page scrolling, scroll drawing, and background changes.
Dynamic web animation can be used to present animated infographics on a website to have the viewers’ attention drawn to specific areas while scrolling the page, highlighting relevant information in a memorable way.
Parallax scrolling uses multiple backgrounds that seem to move at different speeds to create a feeling of depth. The Dockyard Social, a Scottish restaurant, relies on the effect and changing colors to convey its quirky personality and food and drink offerings.
Hover animations let you create elements on your webpage that are set in motion when a visitor hovers over them with, say, a computer cursor, so they may grow, shrink, pulse, push, rotate, float, sink, bob, wobble, or perform other eye-catching motions.
Hover animations are useful to show users that the objects they’re hovering over are clickable, whether it’s a button, string of text, or animation. Hover animations exist for background and border transitions, icons, speech bubbles, and much more, and can be applied to links, buttons, logos, scalable vector graphics (SVGs ), featured images, and so on.
They offer a way to make your UI more interactive, whether it’s a site designed for computers or mobile devices. Hover animations can signal completed actions. For example, you might deploy one for a submit button, showing a customer that their button click was successful.
Haus uses hover effects to enable visitors to interact with flowing, colorful shapes, underlining the interactive agency’s creativity.
As the name suggests, warning animations tell users when they’re doing something wrong, such as filling in a form incorrectly or missing a field. Warning animations can take the form of sad emojis, red crosses, or other icons that signify wrong actions taken.
Under construction warnings ensure better customer experiences by reducing frustration levels as users are clearly shown what they must do to complete a successful transaction on a site.
Homestar Runner, a retailer of games, apparel, and accessories, offers a unique animated page for a broken link, where a neon man blows arrows through another figure and says, “404’d!!”
Common animation languages
The most used computer languages can help you create the effects described above as well as many others. These common animation languages include:
Cascading style sheets (CSS) is a stylesheet language that describes the presentation of a document written in a markup language like HTML. CSS animations involve animating CSS transitions from one style configuration to another, using a style that describes the animation and a set of keyframes that serve as start and endpoints for the animation, as well as any waypoints. Web developers can use CSS animation to animate many other CSS properties, including color, background color, height, and width.
CSS transitions let you choose the kind of “easing” you want to use for your animations (where “ease-in” is for motion that starts slowly and speeds up and “ease-out” is for motion that does the opposite). You can use the CSS transparency option to specify how transparent or opaque an object is. You can do a fade-in transition, going from transparent to full opacity.
Uses of CSS animations range from staged reveals of images when the user hovers over them to a spinning cinematic treatment of corporate information.
Scalable vector graphics (SVGs) are often used on the web for icons and logos. They avoid pixelated looks at different scales by using vector technology to create straight lines that are redrawn and scaled by a computer at different sizes, without the jagged appearance of pixels.
SVG animations also share these qualities, so they can be easily scaled and have a sharp resolution at any size, making them ideal for retina displays. They’re also easy to edit and small, so they’ll load quickly. They can be used for loading animations, progression bars, text effects, and much more.
Animations can also include interactive features, such as this Zen Photon Garden that asks you to write on it. The flexible HTML 5 canvas technology can be used for everything from creating color cycling animation to using it as a drawing medium to developing animated games.
Since WebGL doesn’t have many built-in animation capabilities, you have to use third-party utilities and libraries. High-resolution animated graphics can make compelling and mesmerizing effects, such as this slow rainfall of brightly colored pasta created by AlteredQualia.
How to get started with web animation for your website
Of course, the finished animations you use for your website are the end product. Before this, it’s important to do your due diligence so that the animation isn’t just a showy frill but answers a well-defined business need.
1. Understand your customers’ problem set
Animation is a creative solution to a business problem. To understand what problem you need to solve, investigate your customers’ pain points and what they need from you. Once their problem set is defined, you can work on solving it through your animated executions.
2. Create branding principles
Branding is about creating a strong perception of your company, products, and services through visual identities, mission statements, and more. The brand guideline should be used throughout your marketing materials, including websites and animation. So, what you set out to achieve in web animations, and how you present it needs to align with your established branding principles.
3. Understand which medium has a higher impact
In executing your brand-aligned marketing strategy, examine the media available to you and their different strengths and weaknesses. Animation videos cater to a growing consumer taste for such content, are highly memorable, and may lead to more sales conversions.
4. Hire an animation specialist
Of course, there are many animation styles and different programming languages, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. So, rather than hire an animation generalist, you’ll be better served to hire an animation specialist with the area of focus and programming expertise suited for the work you need to be created.
5. Create the animations
Depending on what type of animation you’re using, the process will be different. The process of creating an animation can include:
- Gathering information
- Concept and script
- Voiceover recording
- Creating visual style
6. Test and measure
If you’ve created a web animation to help solve a business problem, measure its effectiveness so that you can fine tune future efforts. It’s a good idea to test an animation concept before creating it, saving time and money.
You can do tests with traditional or animated storyboards. After a web animation is launched, it can be tested with several metrics, including views, length of viewing, shares, positive user comments, and much more.
Bring your website to life with the right animation
Using the right website animation for your online presence is a great way to draw attention to your products, services, and brand presence. They can also make the act of navigating your site easier and more compelling, helping build connections with potential and existing customers.
Depending on the kind of animation you want, you’ll probably need an animator or web developer skilled in the specified type of animation and/or coding language.
That’s where Upwork can help. We help you find the best independent talent for your business needs. Search qualified freelance animators today and find someone who can bring your site to life.
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