Design

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The ultimate guide to proper use of animation

Nowadays it’s hard to impress or even surprise with an interface animation. It shows interactions between screens, explains how to use the application or simply directs a user’s attention. While exploring the articles about animation, I found out that almost all of them describe only specific use cases or general facts about animation, but I haven’t come across any article where all rules concerning animation of interfaces would be clearly and practically described. Well, in this article I won’t write anything new, I just want to collect all the main principles & rules in one place, so that other designers who want to start animating interfaces don’t have to search for additional information.

Duration and speed of the animation

When elements change their state or position, the duration of the animation should be slow enough to give users the possibility to notice the change, but at the same time quick enough not to cause waiting.

Numerous researches have discovered that optimal speed for interface animation is between 200 and 500 ms. These figures are based on the particular qualities of the human brain. Any animation shorter than 100 ms is instantaneous and won’t be recognized at all. Whereas the animation longer than 1 second would convey a sense of delay and thus be boring for the user.

Basic principles of responsive web design

A while back we made a list of animated gifs explaining the basic principles of responsive web design. The post was extremely popular. It turns we were not the only ones who find it difficult to explain what makes the web responsive. Today we are releasing a video, explaining few of the principles with some real examples.

The flow

As screen sizes become smaller, content starts to take up more vertical space and anything below will be pushed down, it’s called the flow. That might be tricky to grasp if you are used to design with pixels and points, but makes total sense when you get used to it.

Relative units

The canvas can be a desktop, mobile screen or anything in between. Pixel density can also vary, so we need units that are flexible and work everywhere. That’s where relative units like percents come in handy. So making something 50% wide means it will always take half of the screen (or viewport, which is the size of the opened browser window).

Breakpoints

Breakpoints allow the layout to change at predefined points, i.e. having 3 columns on a desktop, but only 1 column on a mobile device. Most CSS properties can be changed from one breakpoint to another. Usually where you put one depends on the content. If a sentence breaks, you might need to add a breakpoint. But use them with caution — it can get messy quickly when it’s difficult to understand what is influencing what.

Max and Min values

Sometimes it’s great that content takes up the whole width of a screen, like on a mobile device, but having the same content stretching to the whole width of your TV screen often makes less sense. This is why Min/Max values help. For example having width of 100% and Max width of 1000px would mean that content will fill the screen, but don’t go over 1000px.