Tobias Ahlin / Blog

@tobiasahlin

Meaningful Motion with Action-Driven Animation

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How do we animate interfaces in ways that are not just beautiful, but meaningful? When we add motion to interfaces we want to in one way or another improve the user experience, be it through aiding the comprehension of a concept, setting the mood, improving the perception of speed, or directing the attention of a user. Regardless of the intent of the animation, when animations fail to be meaningful they often fail because of the same reason; failed animations simply visualize objects morphing between being hidden and visible, rather than visualizing the actions unfolding on screen. A window rarely just closes or opens; a message is sent, a draft is discarded, an item is used.

This is essentially state-driven animation vs. action-driven animation. By applying action-driven animation you can catch yourself in the act of creating something that’s not as meaningful as it could be. Are you simply morphing between states, or are you visualizing actions? Meaningful motion is about clear and engaging storytelling, and we can apply action-driven animation to remind ourselves when we’re straying from that path.

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Data visualization with Chart.js: An introduction

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You can tell powerful stories with data. If you want to visualize data in a blog post, on your site, or in a presentation, there are a few libraries out there that can help you achieve stunning results with relatively little work.

Chart.js is one of those libraries. When I’m teaching data at Hyper Island, this is one of the essential tools that’s included in the Data Strategist program. Although less flexible and capable than D3, it’s easier to wrap your head around and to get started with, yet powerful enough to cover more than just your basic needs. In this introductory tutorial we’ll build an interactive graph and get a brief overview of the framework’s cababilities.

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10 Chart.js example charts to get you started

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Chart.js is a powerful data visualization library, but I know from experience that it can be tricky to just get started and get a graph to show up. There are all sorts of things that can wrong, and I often just want to have something working so I can start tweaking it.

This is a list of 10 working graphs (bar chart, pie chart, line chart, etc.) with colors and data set up to render decent looking charts that you can copy and paste into your own projects, and quickly get going with customizing and fine-tuning to make them fit your style and purpose.

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Moving along a curved path in CSS with layered animation

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CSS animations and transitions are great for animating something from point A to B. That is, if you want to animate along a straight path. No matter how much you bend your bezier curves, you can’t make something move along a curved path by applying an animation or a transition to an object. You can overshoot with custom timing functions, and produce spring-like effects, but the relative movement along the X and Y-axis will always be identical.

Instead of turning to JavaScript for producing more natural-looking motion, there’s an easy way to work around this limitation: layered animation. By using two or more objects to drive an animation, we get fine-grained control over an object’s path, and can apply one timing function for the movement along the X-axis, and another one for the Y-axis.

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How to animate "box-shadow" with silky smooth performance

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How do you animate the box-shadow property in CSS without causing re-paints on every frame, and heavily impacting the performance of your page? Short answer: you don’t. Animating a change of box-shadow will hurt performance.

There’s an easy way of mimicking the same effect, however, with minimal re-paints, that should let your animations run at a solid 60 FPS: animate the opacity of a pseudo-element.

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Google Web Font Inspiration with TypeSource

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If you’ve been looking through Google’s directory of Web Fonts in search for fonts to use in your next project, you might have felt your inspiration quickly drain. It can be difficult to imagine how a font would look in use when you’re left with a long list of black text on white.

I built Typesource to make it easier to find and match Google Web Fonts. I’ve carefully crafted each example, exploring different styles, combinations, and color schemes in every composition. In addition to the feed of inspiration, the HTML/CSS is available for all examples, so you can copy and paste the code into your project and quickly get started with your web type compositions.

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Copy Lorem Ipsum from your Menu Bar with Loremify

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Kalle Persson and I just built and released a small utility app for OS X. Loremify is a free mac app to quickly copy Lorem Ipsum to your clipboard. It lets you wrap the dummy text in html or markdown, specify the amount of text, and copy it to your clipboard—all in one click. It sits in your OS X menu bar, and it’s available on the App Store.

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Animating Link Underlines

I recently added a simple visual effect to this blog that I quickly fell in love with: when you hover blog headers, the link’s underline is revealed by animating it out from the center. You can try it in the banner above.

Creating this effect is surprisingly easy, doesn’t require any additional DOM elements to be added through HTML, and falls back nicely for browsers that don’t support CSS animations (it will just show up as a regular underline).

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Introducing SpinKit

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While hacking away at Infinite Jekyll the other week, I needed to show a loading indicator while fetching new posts. It had to be open-sourced though, and available in retina resolution. I couldn’t find any decent spinners, so instead of sitting down in Photoshop and creating two GIFs, I turned to CSS animations and created a simple, repeatable, loading animation.

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Common Mac OS X Cursors as PNGs

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If you’re ever creating user interface mockups for desktop apps or web apps, you’ve likely been looking for mouse cursors to demonstrate different ways of interacting with your design. I have, at least, but have had a hard time finding pixel perfect PNGs.

I dug around in OS X’s System Library and managed to find the vectors used for rendering the most common cursors (including for pointing, drag and dropping, resizing, etc.), and exported them all as PNGs. If you can’t find the cursor you’re looking for in the table below, I’ve prepared a zip with all cursors.

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