Animation in mobile app design
Animation in mobile app design plays a huge role, and is a very valuable piece of this technology. In a user-centered design approach, when all attention is focused on the user, animation can create a feeling of knowledge and understanding, allowing users to navigate without even thinking about what to do next. Any interaction between a person and the program should feel natural, so designing this animated actions can can carry a lot of weight and potential issues, especially if done incorrectly. That's why it's worth paying attention to various types of animation in Android and iOS applications.
UI animation in mobile development
UI animation in mobile development is more than just drawing graphics or a static picture on the phone's layout. This process consists of many iterations and steps that are not visible to many end users. Typical steps for creating an interface include:
Analysis of the future product
Creation of persons (virtual users with individual behavior);
Conducting usability tests;
Creation of mock-ups and sketches;
Conducting A / B testing.
The difference between UX and UI is that the UX designer analyzes how users will interact with the interface and how they will try to reach the final goal. UI designers, on the contrary, come up with how it will look.
Animations for mobile apps and microinteractions
To tell you the truth, animations for mobile apps consist not just of animated actions but microinteractions, too. Yes, we divide mobile app animations and microinteractions - tiny animations or a visual response to user actions. As an example, you can watch the volume scale filling up when the user turns their music louder. At first sight this may seem silly or insignificant, but such microinteractions contribute to users’ considerable interest and a greater "immersion" - with reasons lying in human psychology.
As with any other software or hardware interactions, the "micro" also has a branching into action and a subsequent reaction to it. In this case, the user performs some kind of operation and the interface on which it was executed answers back with a successful status. The action is done, the user can get the results and continue to work on the device.
In general, it's not difficult to guess that user behavior (in applications, of course) should include a lot of microinteractions, as this leads to a more natural flow during the working process. These are the core features that can significantly increase usability, product popularity, and efficiency. To make things more clear, let’s take a look at some examples:
A variety of buttons
The most popular and most frequently used object for interactions is a button. This is not surprising, as buttons are the most familiar and oldest type of human-computer interaction. Buttons are suitable for desktop OS, different mobile platforms like iOS or Android, as well as web application interactions. Moreover, buttons are familiar even for people with less-than-average computer skills, as they mimic interaction with ordinary physical objects, reducing the chances of confusion and increasing work productivity. Triggers, color changes or vibrations all provide the user with an opportunity to understand that the action was carried out.
Let’s take the “swipe to unlock” gesture as an example, as it is the second most popular type of animation. It provides two types of interaction with the application at once: it shows that the content viewing limit was reached and that the application screen has been successfully updated.
"Shake" to turn off
Extremely intuitive and natural action for users who have just woken up, for example, and want to “snooze” for an additional 5-10 minutes. This can also be attributed to flipping the phone screen down to disable the sound of the call.
State of a process
Some actions and transformations on the screen are played back fast, but some need time to initialize, so this point is important. It is always important for the user to know that something is happening in that moment or, otherwise, it’s assumed that the device suddenly froze or encountered an error. Therefore, one of the most important indicators of the state of a process are items such as download and load strings, an indicator of transaction execution, etc.
There is an important detail which is worth remembering when using the application: it should provide communication with the user and, at the same time, give an understandable response from the system. If we talk about examples, we can imagine that the user needs to wait for an application to load or perform a certain action, which means that, in order to avoid misunderstanding, the user should be informed about the actions taking place. This is the basis of all micro-interactions.
The very essence and purpose of animation is to simplify the process of interaction and provide explanations to the user on main processes occurring outside of the field of view.
Types of animation for mobile apps
Now that we have determined what microinteractions are and how they affects the overall user experience when working with the program, let's proceed to types of animation for mobile apps. A good animation can (and probably should) make the application convenient, user friendly and should facilitate the user experience. In addition, it is necessary to attract attention but, at the same time, not to distract the user from the application itself. As mentioned above - the main goal of animation is to convey the basic logic of the application to the user.
App animation examples:
- Visual feedback and representation
Visual feedback is extremely important on any User Interface (despite mobile or web development). If we consider human interaction in physical objects in the real world, we are used to receiving interaction - physical, tactile or sound - and, as a result, we expect the same from the digital environment.
In addition to presenting elements and content on the device screen, the interface and animations are actually created to perform the function of informing the user that the program is working correctly. Alternatively, it can identify and report on unacceptable actions and errors. If,for example, the element on screen is doing some action or moves in the specified direction, it becomes intuitively clear that the application is in the process of answering the user's commands.
- Intuitive navigation
Today, we can observe the complex structure of most mobile applications. The task of UX specialists, interface designers and software developers is to bring all the elements to an orderly view and make navigation within the application as user-friendly as possible. Here, animation can come to the rescue by unobtrusively displaying where the desired element is located; so, the next time a client starts up the program, they don't get confused with a large number of elements, and know where to tap. Thus, understanding of the interface logic is formed and the interaction of the person with the application is simplified in this case.
- Elements hierarchy and its interaction
It's time to talk about causal links. After a certain experience a person gets used to the fact that there are a reason and consequence that follows from it, and it’s not surprising that this applies to design, as well. Each element of the interface has its purpose, function, and place - both inside the UI, and inside the animation. For example, if a click on a button should activate the drop-down menu, then it would be logical to make that menu appear under this particular button and not from the corner of the screen. With the help of animation, you can show the user the result of their pressing action. For the intuitive and native interface, the moment of logical illustration and the connection of elements is important.
- Functional change
This type of animation demonstrates the element’s feedback during user interaction. Most often, this approach is used to show how the functions of various elements are changing - for example in icons, buttons and other small design elements.
- Visual hints
Animation should give clues about how to interact with the interface and its elements. We talked above about the fact that all elements should be orderly and located logically, but we understand that this option is not always available and, in real life, designers may be faced with problems, especially in atypical or new applications. Don’t forget, however, that these problems can also be solved with the help of custom animation, giving visual hints in those cases when the interaction is difficult or has a non-standard pattern of behavior.
- System state
This point is similar to that of microinteractions - it's worth remembering that every action of the user or the program should be accompanied by an animation and/or a response. This is the core basic feature of any application.
Creating solutions for effective interactions, the designer must act at the intersection of design, psychology, programming, and sometimes linguistics and other fields of science and human activity. When developing and designing a mobile application, it is worth remembering that the final product should be both intuitive and useful. If the application does not bring any benefit to the end user, then it does not make sense and will be drowned out of specialized markets. If the application is practical and useful for the user but has a shabby and confusing design, users won't waste their time figuring out how it works. A good design is a well-coordinated work of UX and UI pros. In order to create the best interactions and a natural feel for the user, it is necessary to contribute the effort to create intuitive microinteractions and animations. These two elements can hide all design intricacies and guide users into one continuous flow of application usage, while taking pleasure in the process.