Why Does Animation Matter?

We may not be fully aware of it, as it is one of those things we often perceive on a not entirely conscious level, but us humans – we simply love animation. There is something in that weird mix of imagery and motion that continues to surprise us even though we know how it’s made.

This, however, makes animation sound like a magic show. We simultaneously want and don’t want to know “how they do it.” But, it’s more than just that. When it comes to UX, in order to really delight us, animation has to perform a function. For example, it can show us when a process is completed or it can let us know we’re doing something right. And that’s what we call functional animation.

It’s clear that animation comes in many forms and with many purposes. Animation created for entertainment is one thing, but what we’re talking about here is animation that has a particular UX purpose. It serves a very specific function, so we’ll call it functional animation.

This kind of animation is subtle, unobtrusive, doesn’t take up all of the focus to itself, and has a clear purpose. Or better – several purposes, as animation is often multi-functional.

In web design, functional animation helps the visitor understand the intrinsic rules of the page. It promotes page navigation and helps users perform simple little tasks like getting from one location to the other or completing a process, such as filling in a form.

Animation is not essential to a website. A site can very well exist without it. As we said earlier, good UX animation is so organic and subtle, we often don’t even register it with our conscious mind. But we would definitely notice if it was not there.

Imagine something as “basic” as a preloader (the animated icon that you see on the screen while a page is loading). These days, most websites have it. Now, imagine if they didn’t. Whenever it took a web page longer to load, you’d think it had crashed or that your connection was lost. The preloader is a subtle and immensely efficient way of saying that everything is okay, the content is loading and it will be handed to you in a few second.