I just got back from the New Adventures conference in Nottingham, and one of the stand out talks for me was from Jon Tan. The talk, titled Billboards and Novels, was all about typography on the web, but it got me thinking about animation too.
It’s easy to see how animation can be used to make a big impact, but on the web we often want a gentler, more immersive experience.
Sometimes, a lack of animation can be distracting, resulting in us noticing the interface, rather than the content.
For example, abrupt changes on screen can stand out like a sore thumb, so we animate menus if a user opens them. Or, if nothing happens after an interaction, users can be left wondering if they’ve achieved the desired outcome or not, so we enhance buttons with hover and active states.
So I try not to think of animation as a tool purely used to distract. It’s just as powerful when used to communicate gently and keep the user immersed.