Animations have become an integral part of modern mobile apps. You cannot just underestimate the impact of moving app elements on the user’s perception.

Animations add to the décor of your mobile app and bring life into the design. The moving objects turn the mobile screens into mini-worlds for users to explore. If executed well, animation can become the key functional elements that enhance an app’s usability and desirability.

But for someone unfamiliar with the nitty-gritty of creating animation, it can be an overwhelming experience. Where do you begin? Is there any purpose of using animation in your app? Is it really beneficial?

This article answers all those questions and discusses how we can effectively use animations in a mobile app to provide a positive user experience.

Why Use Animations in Mobile Apps?

While creating an animation, do you treat the animated elements as optional add-ons that will add extra appeal to your app? Or, do you use them to serve a specific purpose?

The animation shouldn’t be treated only as a gimmick or an add-on for extra flavor. You must use it as an essential design feature in your app.

Let’s find out why.

  • Animations enhance user engagement.

Animations positively impact user engagement with mobile apps. They are used to encourage a user to take actions necessary for business, thus improving user engagement.

  • Animations explain the UI logic.

Animations add a context to mobile app navigation. They help users navigate the app by understanding the connections between various interface elements. They provide visual feedback to users in response to their actions to know what’s happening.

Animations can show the hierarchy of pages and screens and draw attention to essential and unique elements.

  • Animations provide a unique user experience.

In-app animated effects ensure an enjoyable, fun, and memorable user experience. It also reinforces brand identity by creating unique animated experiences.

Today, with the help of advanced technologies such as AR and VR, you can create 360-degree animated content. Not only this content intensifies user experience but also boosts your branding.

  • Animations attract user’s attention.

A moving element in an app is a crucial way to attract user’s attention to a particular section of your app. It guides your users to the desired element of your app.

Types of UI Animations and How to Use them in a Mobile App

Now that we know animations in mobile applications add both subtle elegance and functional ease, it’s time we explore different types of animations and how to effectively use them in a mobile app.

1. Visual Feedback Animations

Have you experienced a situation where you tapped on an app’s button, and nothing happened?

And then you tapped, again and again, feeling frustrated but still nothing happened?

If it’s an e-commerce app with a shopping cart, you’ll end up adding more items than you’d perhaps desired. In the case of a hotel reservation app, such an experience may lead you to book the hotel room several times.

These are all examples of poor UX design in an app.

Animations can help avoid such experiences by providing visual feedback.

So, what’s a visual feedback animation?

A visual feedback animation conveys to the users that they are on the right track and that an action taken by them has either succeeded or failed.

Just the way real-world objects move with our actions when we push, pull or touch them. We expect similar responsiveness from app elements when we interact with them. For example, with finger taps or swiping gestures on the screen, it can show some transitions. These are visual feedback in response to user interactions.

It’s crucial to show the user that the app responds to their actions so that they don’t get confused asking themselves, “Have I pressed the OK button?” or “I hope I’m doing it the right way?”

Feedback animations ensure the user journey is comfortable and the user experiences positive. You can create a great UX with visual feedback by adding animated ticks and buttons, pop-up notifications, moving elements, or color and size changes.

Features of a perfect visual feedback animation:

  • It is evident and apparent to all users.
  • It imitates the user interaction with the device.
  • It is visual, with as much less text as possible.

Take the example of a Movie Tickets booking App shown below. It shows the transition between various processes from seat selection to payment processing and finally shows a tick mark conveying the booking process’s completion.

2. Navigation Animations

Most modern apps have a complex hierarchy, but many navigation elements are hidden due to the minimalistic trend.

Navigation animation makes it possible to present these hidden elements.

The way you arrange the in-app hidden elements in the animation can make even the most highly complicated in-app navigation simple and the UI intuitive. This way, you can show users where to find the features they would need.

You need to create an app animation that makes it easier for the user to find hidden in-app elements.

A navigation animation must:

  • Easily transport users between the navigational contexts.
  • Facilitate transitions within the app
  • Use familiar icons rather than text.

In the navigation animation example below, check that additional options appear from the bottom of the screen to refine the selection process.

navigation animation example

3. Progress Indicator Animations

Some in-app interactions take time to process. Maybe, the app is trying to connect to the server while loading something or performing some background activity that’s a bit time-consuming.

Longer wait time for users makes them anxious – what’s going on? Is my application stuck? How long do I wait? What’s the progress? Shall I restart my device?

The user, at this point, would prefer to understand what’s happening and what the progress is.

It’s a good design idea to use a progress indicator animation to see the app is running smoothly. For example, an animation that runs when the user waits for a file to download, fetching the content, or when data is being processed.

An excellent animated progress indicator should:

  • Inform its users about the progress and how long they need to wait.
  • Entertain and calm the user while they wait.
  • Classify as being unique and carry a high chance of becoming a viral feature.

One of the essential features in UX design is informing your users about the app’s status. If you can’t shorten the wait time for users, make it fun for them to wait.

Let’s check the example of a timeline app – the process of waiting here is supported by animated graphics featuring the transition from daytime to night while also showing the progress in numbers when the button is clicked.

Another example shows the remaining time and amount of work done; this animation is enjoyable and memorable. While waiting for the background processes to complete, no one can get bored by watching something like this.

progress bar animation example

4. Visual Hint Animations

You can be sure that your app has a good user interface when it does not rely on its user’s intellect to figure out how to operate everything.

Functional animation can be used in your application as a guiding beacon, cue, or visual hint to assist users. It is used to support the users in understanding how to interact with the app’s interface.

For example, you can make the pop-up tabs appear smoothly and naturally, not disturbing the user’s perception of the app’s flow. Similarly, app icons without any captions may confuse users. That is why it makes sense to add pop-up captions with the help of mobile app animations.

An ideal visual hint animation:

  • Should explain how to use the app.
  • Is clear.
  • Appears on demand.

For example, the famous dating app Tinder has made a breakthrough with the swipe action. To teach users how to interact with their app, the app developers added visual cues in the form of like/dislike buttons and made the swipes informative.

5. Functional Change Animations

Functional change animation visualizes how the app functions by showing how specific elements change when they interact with them.

It is mostly used for app icons, buttons, and similar small design elements.

For example, in some cases, app designers design a button whose functionality changes under specific conditions.

We often see icons, buttons, or other elements that serve dual functions in designs. “Play, Pause, and Stop” and “Hamburger and Back” buttons are some of the most common examples of switchable buttons with functional change animations.

Animation, in this case, shows clearly how an element transforms when a user interacts with it. Changing the menu icon into the back arrow, in the example below, conveys that the two actions are connected but one cannot exist while the other is active.

navigation animation

6. Hierarchy of elements and their interactions

Animations can indicate specific elements of the user interface and illustrate how they interact with each other.

Each user interface element has its unique purpose and place within animation, but most are interconnected in one or the other way. That’s why it’s essential to display how they interact with each other.

For example, if a button activates a pop-up menu, it’s best to have the menu appear from the button instead of just sliding it in from the top of the screen.

When you make the menu appear from the button, it’ll help the user perceive the relationship between the two elements.

7. Animated notifications

App notifications enhance the user’s experience and offer an easy and eye-catchy way to get updates.

You can create animated notifications for your app, which are noticeable but unobtrusive. Such animations have a high chance that users won’t miss noticing them and stay updated for important information.

Check the example of such a UI element in a Home Budget app shown below.

UI element in a Home Budget app

How this notification is made prominent is by the use of bright color and motion imitating pulsation.

8. Marketing Animation

Marketing Animation is a fantastic way to increase your company’s brand awareness and catch your users’ attention.

There are many ways you can use it.

You can try bringing your mascot to life and place it on the splash screen. You can also try animating the company logo, using it in the app’s progress bar, or incorporating your company’s mission into a moving image.

Marketing animations serve two purposes – it grabs the user’s attention and entertains the users.

This is what you must consider while designing a marketing animation.

  • It should be eye-catchy and bright.
  • It is memorable and should appeal to the target audience.
  • It should boost your brand awareness.
  • It shouldn’t take time to load.

Do take care that an animated logo must not leave scope for any additional words.

Here’s the example of an animated logo of Whizzly, an app for self-promotion of young talent.

9. Storytelling and Gamification Animations

You can use animations in your mobile app as part of a story or a game. ‘

This may include animated badges, stickers, mascots, and rewards.

They may not serve any specific functional purpose in the app.

You can use them to make your app interface interesting, attractive, and lively.

Just make sure they do not distract your users from the main features of your app.

For example, you can use animated stickers for Mood Messenger reflecting different feelings: using them adds strong emotional appeal to the user experience.

10. Unique Animations

When we launch a new product (an app, in this case), we aspire that our users fall in love with it.

Custom animations can enhance your app’s uniqueness by making your app stand out.

Remember, such animations make your app unique, but we must not complicate the app’s development in the process.

The example given below shows a unique animation created for a restaurant as a menu selector.

Whatever type of animation you may select for your app, just make sure it is unobtrusive but engaging for the user.

Develop an Intuitive Mobile Application with Imaginovation

A well-designed animation makes the mobile app complete.

Remember, animations boost the usability of your application and make it very appealing to users. If you’re looking to create an intuitive mobile application, get in touch with us. We will help you create an excellent concept and bring your unique idea to life.

We are an award-winning web and mobile app development agency with vast experience in designing and developing remarkable digital products.

Let’s talk.


Michael Georgiou

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