Usability & Animation

Animation is normally seen as a very good quality, whether it be on a screen or in real life; all it’s connotations are positive. The days of wonderment and delight will soon be history though, that is, if people don’t start to realise that, like everything, you can have too much of a good thing.

When is too much? …

Story time…

I recently was revising for an upcoming driving theory examination. To revise I was issued with a piece of software containing various mock tests and the Highway Code. The only thing wrong with the entire application was the damn navigation. Every time I returned to the top-most level of a topic area it took about 5 seconds (yes, that is a long time) for the menu to animate on to the screen. The most useful menu-item happened to be at the bottom of the menu and so every single time I wanted to click it I had to wait 5 whole seconds after arriving on the page!

A couple of years ago I would’ve really appreciated a slowly cascading menu but nowadays it’s just incredibly annoying because I have to wait until the very end of an entire animation until I have full access.

You know what the real problem is? It’s some over-zealous programmer or designer who thought it would be cool to have something whizzing or popping on to the page. If it’s not them then it’s their managers or perhaps it was the bloody client!

And that’s not the only time the obvious over-zealousness of a “professional” has pissed me off: To aid me further in my driving theory preparation I decided to purchase (and not cheaply, I might add) an application for my iPod Touch which also contained mock tests and the Highway Code. After testing it out for the first time I was quite satisfied. But again, because of some crappy developer, the software frequently screwed up on itself because of an intentional feature. The hotshot app developer thought it would be cool to add a ‘shake’ feature so when a user reaches a question in one of the mock tests they have the option to skip it by shaking the device.

I had previously read about this feature in the iTunes store; I thought nothing of it at the time. It was only when sitting in the back of a car, being driven at a regular speed, trying out a mock test that the app suddenly skipped three questions in a row. The app offers no way to go back a question so that really sucked! I mean come on! What the **** is the point in adding a ‘shake’ feature? It’s one of those, “I’ll add this feature to show how cool a developer I am” – normally I’m actually okay when people show off, but when it effects the usability or usefulness of a product it’s simply not acceptable!

Now, what does that last story have to do with animation? Well, that idiot developer thought it would be cool and obviously didn’t think much past that. It would be nice if people would consider coolness as a lesser priority than something like usability.


When you’re thinking of adding any animation to anything on a website, even if you’ve been ordered to do so by a boss or client, always think about usability…. always, always, always think about the user! Nobody is going to be impressed if your steaming animation impedes process! Don’t impede or delay the process of an application or website, ever!

By “process”, I mean the normal and anticipated manner through which a user may interact with your application or website.

Oh, also, I really really hate Flash! If you’re still using flash to develop websites then the only acceptable excuse is that you’ve been in a coma for about three years! FLASH SUCKS! I don’t give a damn about “immersive experiences” when I’m surfing the web, all I want is my damn information!

JavaScript; jQuery, MooTools etc.

Evident from my above ramblings, the line between ‘quite pleasant’ and ‘inconceivably annoying’ is very thin! Don’t go crossing it with a JavaScript framework! – That’s not what they were made for!

I am also at fault; I have also succumbed to the idiocy of the collective. But I have learnt my lesson and have vowed to myself that I will never [consciously] do it again.

Lesson learnt: Don’t jump on the bandwagon just cos’ it’s shiny and faster than the other ones!

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