With the quick development of technology, animation is less of a visual luxury and more of a functional requirement that users expect. Animation solves a lot of functional problems within interfaces and makes interfaces feel alive and truly responsive to the user.

Let’s explore the key animation tactics that improve the functionality and emotional power of your mobile interface.

1. System Status

There are always a number of processes happening backstage in your app, such as data being downloaded from the server and calculations taking place. Such a process always takes some time. You should let a user know that the app isn’t frozen and indicate the status of ongoing processing. Visual signs of progress give users a sense of control over the app.

Loading Indicators

Loading time is an unavoidable situation for most digital products. While animations won’t solve the problem, they certainly make waiting less of a problem.

When we can’t shorten the line, we can certainly make the wait more pleasant.

Creative progress indicators can reduce a user’s perception of time. The animation influences your users’ perception of your product, making it seem better than it actually is.

If an app gives users something interesting to look at while waiting, this makes users pay less attention to the wait itself. Credits: Ramotion

Pull to refresh

A well-known animation in this group is “pull down to refresh,” which initiates a process of content updates on mobile devices.

Credits: Zee Young

Tip: Pull-to-refresh animation should match the design outline of the app — if the app is minimal, the animation should be as well.


Because movement naturally draws attention, animating your notifications is a pleasant way to notify users about something without intruding too much upon the experience.

Moving objects immediately grab user’s attention. Credits: Arjun Kani

2. Navigation and Transitions

The most basic use of animation is in transitions. The logic behind this type of animation is to help the user comprehend the change that has just happened in the page’s layout, what has triggered the change and how to initiate the change again, later on. A classic example is a hamburger button that toggles hidden content.

Motion design can effectively guide the user’s attention in ways that both inform and delight. Credits: Gal Shir

While hamburger animation might be the most expected option here, there are plenty of other ways that animation complements navigation.

Transport between navigational context

Designers use animation to smoothly transport users between navigational contexts and explain changes in the arrangement of elements on a screen.

Transitions should act as intermediaries between the different states of the UI, helping users to understand what is going on when the screen changes. Image credit: Ehsan Rahimi

Visual hierarchy and connection between elements

Animation is perfect for describing objects of the interface and illustrating how they interact with each other.

Animation illustrates how elements are connected. Credits: Vitaly Rubtsov

Function change

In certain cases, designers are forced to design an action button whose functionality changes under certain conditions. We often see this in mobile designs where overall space is limited.

“Play” and ”Stop” buttons are probably the most common example of multi-state buttons. Credits: KREATIVA Studio

This type of animation shows how an element changes when a user interacts with it. In the example below, when the user press floating action button, the plus sign transforms into a pencil. This indicates that the pencil is the primary creation method. Such a small detail means the difference between having to guess what will happen next and knowing what the icon means in either state.

The button changes its look from a “plus” to the “pencil” to indicate that the function of the button has changed. Credits: Material Design

3. Visual Feedback

Visual feedback is crucial for any user interface. It makes users feel in control and for the user, the control means knowing and understanding their current context in the system at any given time.


User interface elements like buttons and controls should appear tangible, even though they are behind a layer of glass.

In the physical world, buttons, controls and other objects respond to our interactions with them. People expect a similar level of responsiveness from the user interface controls.

To bridge that gap, visual and motion cues acknowledge input immediately and animate in ways that look and feel like direct manipulation.

Button is responding to the user’s tap. Credits: Material Design

Visualize the results of the actions

Animations can enhance every point of interaction and reinforce the actions a user is performing.

In Stripe’s example below, when the user clicks “Pay”, a spinner briefly appears before the app shows the success state. Checkmark animation makes the user feel like they easily did the payment and users do appreciate such important details.

Visual response can increase engagement and delight the user. Image credit: Michaël Villar

Tools and Tutorials

Following tutorials will help you incorporate animation into your Android or iOS projects:


Animation is powerful when used in a sophisticated way. It adds life to any design, engages users in even the most routine tasks, and of course make you stand out from above the crowd. Well-designed animations make the experience feel crafted.

The article was originally published at babich.biz

About the Author
Nick Babich is a software developer and author of a blog dedicated to usability

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