5 UI Animation Trends to Look Out For in 2021

Jaye Hannah

With our understanding of users’ needs constantly evolving, and the demand for edgier, more unique interfaces higher than ever, the last few years have seen UI designers significantly step up their animation game. From playing around with color palettes to lifelike 3D animations, there’s never been a more exciting time to push the boundaries of motion in UI.

To get you up to speed with what’s hot, here’s a roundup of all the cutting edge new UI animation trends set to dominate the world’s digital interfaces in 2021. 

  1. 3D motion graphics
  2. Hover effects 
  3. Morphing 
  4. Anthropomorphic animations
  5. Kinetic typography

1. 3D motion graphics

Integration of 3D graphics into interfaces has exploded in recent years. While creating 3D animations requires a lot more time skill, and collaboration than other animated effects, the benefits are undeniable. 3D animations are infinitely more realistic than 2D graphics, making for a much more engaging and interactive user experience. Not only do they increase the quality of your website or app by being more photorealistic, they’re a highly effective way of showcasing a dynamic and unforgettable brand personality. They also allow users to get a better sense of the width and depth of products on e-commerce sites.

3D motion graphics UI animation

(Source: https://dribbble.com/shots/6596459-Web-Illustrations)

2. Hover effects 

Hover effects may be a UI animation technique staple, but the growing momentum in their use means they still deserve a spot on this list. Hover effects refer to animated effects that happen when you hover on a UI element, like a button or text. With hover effects, the possibilities are infinite; maybe hovering on a certain word makes it change color, or hovering on a button makes it bounce up and down—or even hovering on a menu item makes the entire website change theme. This addictive effect turns navigating the website into a playful game, and it’s a fantastic way to ensure a tip-top user experience with minimal effort. 

Link hover effect text on Dribbble

(Source https://dribbble.com/shots/14639664–Hover-w-animated-letters)

3. Morphing 

Morphing is a transition-based animation technique that sees multiple shapes or images seamlessly blend into one another. Often used as a background effect, this intriguing metamorphosis tends to captivate users into staying on the page for longer—both because they’re mesmerized by the flow of imagery, and they’re waiting to see what the image or shape turns into. Not only is it a simple-yet-effective way of adding a more artistic element to the page, it also offers the bonus of increased session time. 

Morphing shapes on Dribbble

(Source: https://dribbble.com/shots/5304378-Morphing-shapes)

4. Anthropomorphic animations

Anthropomorphism refers to non-human things (objects, plants, animals) that exhibit human attributes. As humans, we’re naturally drawn to things that act in human-like ways, because we associate positive interactions with predictable behaviours. Designers have caught onto this, and the last few years have seen a sharp rise in animations that mimic human movements. The key to anthropomorphic animation lies in its subtlety; for example, a small icon bobbing up and down out of boredom after a period of inactivity, or a character brushing hair out of its eyes. Though small, the effect makes the experience all the more immersive—and subconsciously puts the user at ease. 

Anthropomorphic animation of a character tripping

(Source: https://dribbble.com/shots/7129894-GUMonster)

5. Kinetic typography

In essence, kinetic typography is just moving text. But executed properly, it’s so much more than that. Seasoned UI designers use kinetic typography to add a living element to a word or sentence, set the mood or tone, and captivate the users’ attention. There are so many directions you can go in with kinetic typography; squeezing and stretching a word might evoke a sense of playfulness, while repeating the word in a continuous sequence is more hypnotizing and avant-garde. Whether it’s on interfaces, TV ads, or music videos, kinetic typography is most definitely having its moment right now. 

Kinetic typography words all day

( Source: https://dribbble.com/shots/10692303-All-Day-Long)

That’s our roundup of UI animation trends for 2021! Hopefully you’ll already recognize a few of these from your favorite websites and apps—and you’re feeling inspired to start integrating these into your own interfaces going forward. 

To learn more about UI animation, check out these blog posts:

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