Animating UX/UI Design: Applying 5 Animation Principles in Figma

May 25, 2023Eugenia Sorgetti

UX/UI design is a fascinating field that is continuously evolving and growing. As the trend toward more dynamic, immersive digital experiences expands, the use of animation within interface design is on the rise. Designers are integrating the principles of animation to create delightful and intuitive user experiences. One of the best platforms to implement this on is Figma, a versatile design tool with a host of powerful features. This blog post will delve into how five essential principles of animation—Anticipation, Follow Through & Overlapping Action, Slow In & Slow Out, Arcs, and Secondary Action—can be leveraged within Figma to enhance your UX/UI designs. By blending the art of animation with user-centric design, we can create experiences that are not just functional, but also engaging and enjoyable.

Overview of Animation Principles

Originating from the world of traditional animation, the twelve principles of animation were first introduced by Disney animators Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas in their 1981 book "The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation". These principles were established to produce more lifelike animations and were subsequently adopted in various areas of digital design, including UX/UI. They bring life, realism, and an emotional connection to static interfaces.

In the context of this article, we'll focus on five principles that are particularly applicable to UX/UI design:

  • Anticipation: This principle prepares the user for an action, setting up the user's expectations and guiding them through a seamless interaction.
  • Follow Through & Overlapping Action: These principles help to convey the feeling of realism in an interface and make the design feel responsive.
  • Slow In & Slow Out: This principle enhances the user's experience by creating smooth and elegant transitions.
  • Arcs: Arcs make the movement of animated objects feel natural and appealing.
  • Secondary Action: This principle enhances the main action and provides depth to the interactions.

The following sections will discuss each principle in detail and illustrate how to apply them in Figma.

The Magic of Anticipation in UX/UI Design

Understanding Anticipation

Anticipation is all about preparing the user for what's next. It's the subtle hint or setup before a main action occurs. In traditional animation, it's the wind-up before a baseball pitch

or the crouch before a leap. In UX/UI design, anticipation can be applied to guide users and set up their expectations.

Anticipation in UX/UI Design

When creating an interface, anticipation can be manifested in hover effects, changes in color or size, or other subtle cues that indicate that an action is about to happen. These visual hints can make a design more intuitive, helping users navigate and interact with the interface effectively.

Hover effect animation in Figma

Applying Anticipation in Figma

For example, when designing a button in Figma, you can use anticipation by creating an effect that's activated when the user hovers their cursor over the button. The button might change color, grow slightly, or display a tooltip to indicate that it's clickable. This element of anticipation prepares the user to interact with the button and gives them feedback about what to expect next.

Bringing Realism to UX/UI with Follow Through & Overlapping Action

Understanding Follow Through & Overlapping Action

Follow through and overlapping action involve making movements seem more natural by adding secondary motions. This can be seen in the physical world when a person stops moving and their clothes continue to sway slightly. In UX/UI design, these principles help create a sense of continuity and fluidity, adding a touch of realism to digital interfaces.

Follow Through & Overlapping Action in UX/UI Design

In digital interfaces, follow through can be applied in elements that continue to move or change after an initial action. Overlapping action, on the other hand, can be seen inelements that start moving before the initial action has completed. These actions create a dynamic, cohesive experience that engages users and makes the interface feel alive.

Applying Follow Through & Overlapping Action in Figma

Suppose you're designing a dropdown menu in Figma. Once a user clicks on the menu, the primary action, each subsequent option could appear in a cascading fashion rather than all at once (overlapping action). Moreover, even after the user has made a selection, the menu could slowly fade out (follow through), rather than disappearing abruptly.

Dropdown animation in Figma

Perfecting Transitions with Slow In & Slow Out

Understanding Slow In & Slow Out

The principle of Slow In & Slow Out refers to the idea of gradually accelerating and decelerating the motion of an object. In the world of animation, this creates more lifelike movement, as it mimics the way objects in the real world speed up and slow down due to the laws of physics.

Slow In & Slow Out in UX/UI Design

In the realm of UX/UI design, applying Slow In & Slow Out to animations and transitions enhances the fluidity of the user experience. Smooth transitions guide the user’s eyes and maintain their attention while interacting with the interface. This principle also makes actions feel more deliberate and natural, reducing cognitive load for users.

Applying Slow In & Slow Out in Figma

Consider designing a page transition in Figma. Instead of having the new page appear instantaneously, you can use the Smart Animate feature to smoothly transition elements from the old page to the new one. This slow in and slow out animation will create a flowing, natural, and engaging user experience.

Suggested Image: A GIF showing a smooth page transition in Figma using the Slow In & Slow Out principle.

Captivating Users with Arcs

Understanding Arcs

In animation, the principle of Arcs involves moving objects along a curved path rather than a straight line. This creates more natural and pleasing motion because in real life, most actions tend to follow an arched trajectory.

Arcs in UX/UI Design

In UX/UI design, arcs can be used to guide the user's eye and give animations a more natural feel. Using arcs can help create a flow that users instinctively understand, as it mirrors the motion that they see in the natural world.

Applying Arcs in Figma

For instance, if you're designing a button in Figma that moves across the screen after being clicked, rather than moving it in a straight line, you can have it follow an arched path. This can be achieved by leveraging Figma's prototyping tools, which allow you to create complex animations and transitions.

Enhancing Interactions with Secondary Action

Understanding Secondary Action

Secondary action in traditional animation refers to smaller, supportive actions that occur simultaneously with the main action, adding richness and dimension. It provides additional detail and depth, enhancing the overall animation.

Secondary Action in UX/UI Design

In the world of UX/UI design, secondary actions can be subtle effects that support the main user action. They can amplify the significance of a user's interaction with the interface, making the user experience more engaging and interactive.

Applying Secondary Action in Figma

Consider designing a messaging app in Figma. When a new message arrives, the main action could be the appearance of the message in the inbox. A secondary action could be the simultaneous animation of a notification badge. This secondary action provides more information and visual interest, enhancing the overall interaction.

Secondary actions in animation

The Impact of Animation Principles in UX/UI Design

Creating Lifelike Experiences

Applying principles of animation in UX/UI design helps create interfaces that are more lifelike and intuitive. From providing users with anticipation of an action, to following through with overlapping actions, or enhancing interactions with secondary actions—these principles breathe life into static interfaces.
Enhancing User Engagement

Animation principles not only enhance the aesthetic appeal of designs but also contribute significantly to user engagement. They create a seamless flow, guide the user’s focus, and provide an overall captivating digital experience.

The Power of Animation in Figma

Figma's robust design and prototyping tools allow designers to bring these animation principles into their work seamlessly, enabling the creation of dynamic, engaging, and user-friendly designs. Understanding and applying these principles in Figma can truly elevate your UX/UI design to the next level.

Further Resources

Understanding and applying these five principles of animation—Anticipation, Follow Through & Overlapping Action, Slow In & Slow Out, Arcs, and Secondary Action—can revolutionize your UX/UI design process, especially when using a powerful tool like Figma. These principles bring a new level of dynamism and interactivity, enhancing user experience and overall design aesthetics.

If you're eager to further enhance your skills in Figma and delve deeper into UX/UI design, here are five highly recommended articles to explore next:

Eugenia Sorgetti

Eugenia Sorgetti

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