Animated web pages keep users on your site for longer. Research has shown that users on webpages with branded loading animations wait longer for the page to load and are less likely to abandon the page altogether, compared to pages with generic animations. Designed thoughtfully, animations breathe life into static web content and positively impact user engagement and retention.
However, poor-quality animations can be jarring. Too short and the effect is imperceptible at best, unpleasant at worst. Too long, and users are already bouncing. Optimizing the duration of your animation is just the first job. After this, designers need to ensure they feel natural and intuitive for the user. The best animation software tools, therefore, need to be advanced enough for designers and developers to create and adjust down to the smallest details.
In this article, we explore the design and development tools that provide the best animation software for adding motion effects to your website.
Table of Contents
Types of Animations
When creating animations and effects across your site, with the right software, you’re only limited by your imagination. There is a huge range of animation types that you can use across websites and applications. Consider the animations you value most against the capabilities of each software tool before deciding which is best for your project.
Loading animations are transitions from one webpage to another that welcome users and help reorient them to the new content. They also provide the chance to incorporate more engaging, interactive elements. Everything from 3D animations, background videos or typography animations can be used to greet your site visitors.
Interactive scrolling, where animations move when a user scrolls the page, give users better control of their experience. You can choose from background changes, scroll drawing, parallax effects and more.
Compact, clear websites streamline the user experience by reducing the number of clicks and scrolling required to navigate around a site. Sidebar navigation (vertical sliding navigation) keeps your menu icons anchored to the side of the screen so that they can instantly pop out without the user scrolling or clicking their way back to the top.
Providing visual feedback to your users is a straightforward way of showing them how to move around your site. With hover effects, buttons can change colour or light up to show users if an object is clickable or display to them that an action, such as submitting a form, was successful. Hover effects are mighty important for desktop users, but less so for mobile experiences. For now, a user’s finger can’t be tracked in the same way as a computer mouse or cursor can.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so the saying goes. A moving picture is no doubt easier for a user to absorb compared to trawling through thousands of words of text. Advanced animations can tell a story in seconds.
The Best Animation Software Tools Compared
Framer is a free prototyping tool that teams can use collaboratively to build hundreds of moving design elements. Teams can create extensive interactions without the need for code. You can either import your favourite designs or create animations from scratch with the drag and drop builder.
-The ‘Magic Motion’ feature allows you to focus on animating a specific element from one page to another. All you have to do is tell Framer to connect the elements across the two pages and Framer will complete the animation.
-Framer offers pre-set built-in interactions and transitions. There are also built-in components that you can instantly drop-in, including buttons, checkboxes, inputs, sliders, tabs, videos and more.
-You can produce design systems and easily drop brand elements and components into a project.
-Framer is brilliant for prototyping, as you can set scrollable areas and interactivity which allows for a great handover to clients.
-Teams can collaborate on projects at the same time and see changes in real-time.
-Framer’s desktop app, Framer X, works hand in hand with React.js. This means that you can add custom code to the project to achieve more bespoke elements and interactivity.
-All Google fonts are automatically installed in the font library.
-While it’s great for creating motion, its design capabilities aren’t quite as advanced. You might, therefore, want to copy predesigned elements into Framer. But this isn’t the seamless process you would hope for, either. When we imported from Sketch into Framer, some of the elements were altered in the transition as the two programmes are not fully compatible.
-The Parallax Scrolling widget could be more user friendly. Without this, it’s difficult to apply scrolling effects without code.
-While Framer’s built-in widgets work well, it’s a challenge to create bespoke shapes and sections, somewhat limiting the design process.
-Framer is free, but to access the additional functionality provided by the desktop app you need to sign-up to the paid version at £16 per month, per editor. The premium package provides access to unlimited projects, custom fonts, private share links and local file access.
Framer – Overall Review – 3*s
There’s definitely a lot to like about Framer. In our opinion, it offers the best functionality when designing apps as the built-in components are better tailored for mobile use.
However, Framer could offer better functionality for scrolling effects to make it a stronger tool for website design. You will also most likely run into difficulties if importing a pre-designed project, as we did when copying over from Sketch.
Overall, a great tool for creating mobile apps, but lacking the advanced custom design functionality we would have liked.
InVision Studio claims to be ‘the world’s most powerful screen design tool’ and we have to agree, it offers some outstanding design features that make animating easy. Your whole team can design, prototype and animate in one place. If you already use InVision, InVision Studio is completely free.
InVision Studio Pros:
-Unlike Framer, important existing Sketch files is a breeze with InVision Studio. Our Sketch designs were imported pretty much pixel perfect, including symbols.
-It’s responsive by design, with a layout engine that lets you easily scale and adjust your design to automatically fit any screen.
-You can use shared libraries for design systems.
–Rapid prototyping, including point-and-shoot prototyping and instant playback, allows you to easily present designs to clients.
-Advanced animations are built using a highly intuitive interface. Use the pin tool for parallax scrolling on images and create looping animations using the timer trigger. There’s even a timeline editor so that you can finetune the speed of your animations.
-It comes with built-in interactions for motions between pages and pop-ups.
-If you prefer to design from scratch, InVision Studio is as easy to use as Sketch.
InVision Studio Cons
-Creating some effects requires a great deal of organisation from the outset. For example, you have to create a new artboard for each hover effect.
-Unlike Framer, InVision Studio doesn’t include some interactive components such as text fields, sliders and videos.
-While there is a Freehand tool that does help with team collaboration, there’s no option for live, team editing. Again, this is something that Framer does offer.
InVision Studio – Overall Review – 4*s
InVision Studio is a great option to show motion in prototypes. It offers an excellent user experience, delivers advanced designs capabilities with intuitive controls and it couldn’t be easier to successfully import designs.
Although Framer offers a couple of extra interactive components and collaborative design, InVision Studio is the best all-round tool for creating website animations.
Principle is an animation tool that emphasises its compatibility with Sketch designs. Designs and developers can use it to create scrolling and tab effects, sticky headers, screen to screen transitions and much more.
-It’s simple to import designs using the one-click importer. Our imported Sketch designs crossed over extremely well and completely matched the original.
-You can make animations using multiple artboards and layers, which Principle then ties together for you with smooth transitions.
-Principle settings allow you to easily tune the speed of your animations.
-There are no built-in components or transitions with Principle.
-Of the three tools we tested, Principle was the most difficult to use with a rather puzzling interface.
-Multiple artboards and layers required for advanced animations can make for a time-consuming and overly complicated design process.
Principle – Overall Review – 1*
Usability is key for an animation tool and this is where Principle was unfortunately lacking. InVision Studio and Framer both provided more well-rounded software with intuitive design interfaces. Perhaps with a little more time, Principle would offer up some brilliant design options, but for us, the investment wasn’t worth the result.
Take Stock Before Choosing New Software
Before you decide to invest in new software, assess the capabilities of the tools you currently use. WordPress page builder, Elementor, offers a range of in-built animations, making it easy to prototype some scroll effects and interactions.
Elementor Pro users also have access to thousands of light-weight animation graphics from Lottie Animations. You can easily incorporate Lottie Animations in multiple ways across your pages and content.
Who Offers the Best Animation Software?
The best animation software for your team will largely depend on your workflows, what you’re aiming to create and team preferences. For us here at KIJO, we have opted for a three-pronged approach, so that we can cover all bases.
When creating apps, our go-to is Framer. With mobile-friendly components and a great responsive design, it was the obvious choice. For websites, we build in Sketch before converting to InVision Studio files to add animation later.
Our advanced effects are still largely created using Adobe After Effects. Although the tools we have reviewed here all serve their purpose, we have found nothing to match the advanced capabilities of After Effects.
By using multiple tools, we keep our workflows agile and opt for the best animation software for the job. For help building website animations, or for any web-design queries or projects, get in touch with the KIJO team.