Skip to main content

8 imaginative ways to use animation in mobile apps

A good mobile app must boast a great interface design and an engaging user experience, of course, but people also judge by appearances. In a crowded marketplace, developers must make sure that their app is beautiful enough to stand out. Animations can help on all counts. When used properly, UI animations can help reduce cognitive load, attract and direct users’ attention, and make an experience easier to follow.

In my work at EffectiveSoft (opens in new tab), I often advise developers on how to integrating animations into their UIs in order to win over customers. Get it right, and it really works. But use too many animations or use them in the wrong places, and it can create an irritating or noisy experience. 

So, when are animations appropriate? This article pulls together some best practices for using animation in mobile apps, to show you how to build an app (opens in new tab) interface that works. For guidance on adding motion to your interfaces, take a look at these CSS animation examples (opens in new tab) article.

01. Animated app launch screens

Studies show that people expect apps to load instantly, but with complex mobile apps this isn’t always possible. Loading animations can help distract users and make the load time appear shorter than it is. There are a lot of different animation options for load screens. 

A simple option is to use an animated logo, as Édouard Puginier (opens in new tab) has done here in his design for the launch screen of Wit. 

App launch screens are prime locations for animations

App launch screens are prime locations for animations
(opens in new tab)

Other designers like to get more creative, and tie their animation in with the theme of the app itself or the rest of the branding. In the loader design below, Anton Drokov (opens in new tab) has animated a spacecraft travelling to the stars.

Theme your animations to create excitement as your app loads

Theme your animations to create excitement as your app loads
(opens in new tab)

02. Animated login screens

Some apps ask users to log in before they launch. Here, an awesome background illustration can help liven up a login screen, and keep new users on side so they’re willing to take the time to log in.

In the login animation below, @herac1es (opens in new tab) has used a time-lapse animation of a busy city to add momentum to the process of logging in.

Jazz up a login screen with animation

Jazz up a login screen with animation
(opens in new tab)

Other apps use animation to distract the viewer while they check the username and password that has been entered. In the space-inspired concept below, Oliver Günther (opens in new tab) has even designed an error state.

Getting your password wrong has never been so fun

Getting your password wrong has never been so fun
(opens in new tab)

03. Animated onboarding screens

Software developers understand the importance of the onboarding process. This helps first-time users to become familiar with the app – there’s a real risk people will abandon the app if they do not understand how to work with it.

Showing static slides to users is a common approach to the onboarding experience, but animated walkthroughs are much more engaging, as this calming onboarding animation from Zhenya Rynzhuk (opens in new tab) proves.

Walk users through the app with animation

Walk users through the app with animation
(opens in new tab)

04. Animated progress and activity indicators

It is common knowledge that people are impatient and hate waiting. Developers do their best to ensure their apps work smoothly and speedily but sometimes waiting is inevitable – for example, when something needs to be loaded or a new element is installed.

Apps often employ animated progress or activity indicators to capture users’ attention. These could be circular or linear, and developers tend to choose indeterminate indicators for operations that are performed quickly, and determinate indicators for actions that take more than two to three seconds.

However, some app designers make their activity indicators more distinctive. For example, Domaso (opens in new tab)’s circular progress indicator has been turned into a cute cat that stretches as it moves.

What else could be a fun play on the spinning wheel?

What else could be a fun play on the spinning wheel?
(opens in new tab)

Andrey Davlikanoff (opens in new tab) has also plumped for a cute creature. His tiny snail moves forward to indicate progress.

This is certainly more fun than most progress indicators

This is certainly more fun than most progress indicators
(opens in new tab)

Other developers have chosen to tap into our obsession with food. Such indicators are a great choice for mobile apps that deal with food delivery, recipes or cooking. For instance, Giedrius Butkus (opens in new tab)’ mouthwatering pizza preloader design would fit a pizza delivery app perfectly.

Just hope your users don't get hangry

Just hope your users don't get hangry
(opens in new tab)

Roman Kryzhanovskyi (opens in new tab) has opted for a simpler, geometric design in his Android app server search progress screen.

We love the sonar-style ripple effect (You might have to refresh to make this one play)

We love the sonar-style ripple effect (You might have to refresh to make this one play)
(opens in new tab)

Finally, Mark Martemianov (opens in new tab) has decided to combine a circular and linear progress indicator in his Material Design-style subscription button. 

Next page: UI animation ideas for buttons, menus and error pages

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

Tatsiana is a tech journalist at EffectiveSoft, a custom software development company with over 250 specialists in different business domains. She contributes to such websites as Clutch, Codementor, TNW, Datafloq and SitePoint, and writes about health, IT, natural language processing, software design and development, finances, and more.