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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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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Three new SpinKit spinners

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SpinKit just got three new additions: a folding cube spinner, a classic circle spinner, and a scaling grid spinner. Just like the other spinners, they are animated using only the transform and the opacity properties, making them perform well, and easy to customize: just change the background color to match your site.

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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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