Animation in Web Design: Applications and Best Software Solutions

Animation in Web Design: Applications and Best Software Solutions
Published
Jan 31, 2024

Even though animation, as we understand it today, was initially introduced in the film industry, its present usage has evolved far beyond its cinematic origins. Today animation covers many different industries from film, television, and video games, to web design, marketing, architecture, and education.

As the animation industry continues to evolve, so do the tools used to create stunning animations. In this article, we will introduce you to some animation basics and showcase several of the top animation software that professionals and enthusiasts alike use to bring their ideas to life.

What is Animation?

The human eye and brain can process around 10 images per second and perceive them individually. If the number of frames per second is increased to more than 12, then those same static images shown to our eyes before will afterward appear to transition into motion. 

So this is what Animation is — a process of creating moving images or pictures by sequencing multiple static images that when displayed rapidly in succession create the illusion of motion.

A great example to illustrate this process in your mind are the flipbooks. Animations are created similarly but on a greater scale. In our age of technological advancement, often after watching a movie with stunning animations, curiosity teases our minds with the question “How did they do that?”

This question is swiftly quenched by the obvious and easy answer — computers. But of course, the animation journey didn’t start with them. When we turn back to the beginnings of animation, the process of creating an animated video was much more complicated and required a lot of human effort.

Traditional Animation Era

Although animation is not known when exactly it started in history, its concept of storytelling is way older and can be traced to different nations, such as the Egyptians and their use of hieroglyphics.

What made it boom in our early history was the invention of Phénakisticope by Joseph Plateau which was the first widespread animation device, that later evolved and gave rise to more advanced means of animation.

What is known as traditional animation, requires animators to draw on transparent celluloid paper each frame by hand to create an animated sequence. This was the dominant form of animation in cinemas until the advent of computer animation.

Of the first to create an animated film in America was James Stuart Blackton. In 1900, he produced “The Enchanted Drawing,” an animated sequence recorded for the first time on standard picture film. This achievement later earned him the title as one of the fathers of animation.

Modern Animation Era

The modern era of animation, also known as the renaissance age of American animation, started around the 1980s. This was the age when computer animation started becoming an essential tool in the film industry, with the first full-length animated film created entirely using computer animation being “Toy Story” produced by Pixar Animation Studios in 1995. That’s the company that was bought at the time by Steve Jobs after he was fired from Apple by the board of directors in 1985.

Computer animation is a digital successor of stop motion techniques, and nowadays despite the two-dimensional (2D) model animation, other modern techniques like 3D are used to create more advanced animations.

This is known under the general umbrella term for computer animation nowadays as CGI or computer-generated imagery and includes both static and dynamic (moving) images.

AI Animation Era?

Perhaps too new to have a category of its own, but with the immense widespread implementation of AI in different fields of technology today, AI tools have also started rolling out in the niche of design and animation. 

Relying on data-driven algorithms to generate visuals in a faster and more efficient way than with traditional animation techniques. Their potential is great having a wide range of applications, from movies and video games to medical imaging and virtual reality. 

For the moment AI is especially efficient when it comes to automating repetitive tasks, such as creating crowd scenes or backgrounds. As AI tools are newcomers in the field, they are yet to be used fully on professional tasks, as many challenges remain to be overcome, but the potential they bring especially in time and effort saving is significant. 

With further advancements and refinement, AI-driven animation tools have the potential to revolutionize the industry!

Animation in Web Design

Since the advent of technologies like Adobe Flash and JavaScript, animations have also started to be present in web design. This continued to evolve with other new computer languages introduced like HTML5, CSS3, etc., making it easier for designers to make better-performing animations.

In web design, animation refers to the process of creating an illusion of motion through visual effects. The goals of its usage are numerous. They are used to attract attention to your website, keep the visitors engaged for a longer time, and create emotional connections with them.

They also act as a guide and enhance the user experience overall by making the interface more interactive. When it comes to website template types, animation is more commonly used in landing pages, portfolio templates, and one page template designs, though you can find it throughout all other template types as well. 

Portfolio template Detroitin webflow , showing an animation example of a man walking - made by Wedoflow
Detroit portfolio website template animation example

Animation Types and Examples

When it comes to specific modalities of animations on how and where they can be used, here are a few of them with some examples attached:

1. Hover effect animations — triggered by the cursor's position over an element on screen.

Hover effect animation on the Black + Webflow template
Black Plus — Webflow SaaS template

2. Transition animations — triggered when transitioning between different pages or states.

A transition animation example shown in the Austin Webflow Portfolio template
Austin — Webflow portfolio template

3. Loading animations — triggered when the page or a particular element is loading.

A loading animation example shown on the Firenze webflow portfolio template
Firenze — Webflow portfolio template

4. Interactive animations — triggered by user input such as clicks, taps, etc.

An interactive animation shown with a subscribe button that changes color and shows some stars when clicked
Subscribe button animation

5. Scrolling animations — triggered when scrolling down on the page.

A scrolling animation example from the Montreal webflow SaaS template
Montreal — Webflow SaaS template

6. SVG animations — created using vector graphics, can be time-triggered and are resolution-independent.

An SVG animation example showing stats moving on a graph chart
SVG animation example

7. CSS animations — triggered when transitioning from one CSS configuration to another.

A CSS animation example showing the sun and clouds moving
CSS animation example

8. JavaScript animations — used for complex animations, triggered by timers, form submissions, scrolling, etc.

A Javascript animation example showing the word anime on motion
Javascript animation example

Best Animation Software 2024

1. Adobe Animate

Adobe animate software tool for web animation
Adobe Animate — 2D animation software

Adobe Animate is a robust software for creating animations and interactive content by Adobe Systems.

It offers a wide range of vector drawing tools and a variety of other features such as Timeline, ActionScript, HTML5 Canvas, support for WebGL and WebAssembly, symbols, bone tools, inverse kinematics, motion editor, and publish settings. 

It also allows third-party plugins and extensions to expand its capabilities. Its user-friendly interface and wide range of tools make it easy to create animations and interactive content for different platforms including web, mobile, and gaming.

It's one of the best Adobe software for animation popularly chosen among professionals and hobbyists for creating animations, games, e-learning content, and interactive designs.

Learning to use it might take some time. It is offered for 7 days as a free trial, and after that using it costs $20.99/mo.

2. Toon Boom Harmony

Toon boom harmony software tool for web animation
Toon Boom Harmony — 2D animation software

Toon Boom Harmony is of the best 2D animation software, a standard in the field. With its ability to create hand-drawn and cut-out animations, multi plane camera support, and advanced compositing tools, Toon Boom Harmony offers a wide range of features for animators of all skill levels. Each animator can choose one of the three tiers or versions of the tool, based on their own skill level. Those versions are Essentials, Advanced, and Premium.

Its integration with other software such as Adobe Photoshop, and its robust rigging system, make it a go-to choice for professional animation projects, including TV series, feature films, and web series. Its downside is that no free trial is available with it. The purchasing cost is $25/month. 

3. Maya

Maya software tool for web animation
Maya — 3D animation software

Maya a product of Autodesk, is a professional-grade 3D animation software used in film, TV, and video game industries. It offers a wide range of tools for modeling, texturing, lighting, and animation. It includes a material editor, an animation system, and built-in particle effects.

Maya has a large user community and is compatible with other industry-standard software, also it is supported by third-party plugins and scripts. The software is expensive at $225/month, but there is the possibility for a 30-day free trial.  

Also a bonus for students and educators is that they can get a free one-year educational access to Maya and other Autodesk products, and can renew this service as long as they are eligible.

4. Blender

Blender — 3D animation software tool
Blender — 3D animation software

Blender is an open source 3D animation software built by a community of highly skilled developers and thus offered completely free. It supports the entire 3D pipeline, including modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing, and motion tracking, as well as video editing and game creation.

It is customizable through Python scripting and is well-suited for individuals and small studios. The Blender community is actively involved in the development process, and the software is available for Linux, Windows, and Macintosh computers. 

The great thing about Blender is using it without spending a dime. At last, who doesn't love free stuff? I mean, unless it's a free trip to the dentist.

5. After Effects

After effects animation tool for 2D and 3D animation
After Effects — 2D and 3D animation app

Adobe After Effects is a powerful motion graphics and visual effects software. It is used for both 2D and 3D animation with vectors and rasterized art.

You can import photographs and other physical media into your animations, allowing you to create various titles and motion graphics. It has virtual reality capabilities and can do stuff from text rotating up to post-production editing. One of the key features of Adobe After Effects, and other Adobe apps in general, is their integration with other Adobe tools, making your designing process faster and easier.

It is offered as a free trial for 7 days and costs $20.99/month or you can access it by purchasing the Adobe Creative Cloud for $54.99 for a better price, which includes more than 20 other Adobe apps that you can utilize in your work. 

6. Spline

Spline 3D design animation software
Spline — 3D design animation software

Spline is also one of the go-to tools, especially for those who are beginners in animation since it features an easy interface to work with for any designer regardless of their 3D experience.

Spline offers a range of tools for modeling, texturing, lighting, and animating 3D scenes, making it suitable for various applications such as film, television, gaming, and architectural visualization. 

It supports various file formats for importing and exporting 3D models, enabling seamless integration with other software and pipelines. Lately, as of October 2023, one of those added integrations was with the Webflow website builder.

One of the best things about Spline is that you can use it for free, only if you want to expand your team and collaborators inside the projects there are two more premium options, costing only $9 and $11 per month billed annually. See the added features.

7. Procreate

Procreate - best ipad application for animation
Procreate — Digital illustration app

Procreate is a two-time Apple Design Awards winner, one of the best animation apps for iPad. It offers a wide range of powerful tools and features, including customizable brushes, layering options, selection tools, advanced editing capabilities, and time-lapse recording. 

With support for various file formats and seamless integration with cloud services, Procreate is a favorite among creatives for its versatility and performance. Procreate is not free, but it is available on the Apple App Store for a one-time purchase of $12.99.

8. RunwayML

RunwayML — AI animation software
RunwayML — AI animation software

RunwayML isn't just another animation software; it's a cloud-based platform harnessing the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to revolutionize how we create visual content. It is like a playground for imagination, where you can transform text, images, and videos into stunning animations, captivating visuals, and engaging storytelling. 

RunwayML offers features like text-to-video, image-to-animation, video remixer, and more. It has a free plan but with limited options, offering only 125 credits.

RunwayML pricing is structured around credits, which you spend on using its various AI tools and features. There are 4 pricing options the cheapest one being the Starter option, costing $12/month and offering 625 credits per month, good for exploring the platform and trying out basic features.

Computer specs for web animation

The process of animation requires a lot of work from your computer hardware, that’s why before choosing which laptop to buy, you need to have in mind a few things about your hardware specifications. CPU and GPU are the key components that do most of the “legwork” in the rendering process, and that is why you need to make sure that they have the required performance to handle your work fast and efficiently.

Despite hardware requirements varying from software to software, most of the high-end animation software, like the ones mentioned earlier, require in general at least these minimum specifications: 

  • A 64bit quad-core processor (Intel, AMD)
  • 2 GB of GPU 
  • 8GB RAM
  • Full HD display resolution
  • 8GB of free Disk Space
  • Windows 8.1, macOS 10.13

On the other hand, the recommended specifications commonly include:

  • 64bit octa-core processor (Intel, AMD, or M chip series from Apple)
  • 4GB of GPU VRAM
  • 16 or 32GB RAM
  • 2K display resolution or higher
  • 64GB free disk space 
  • Windows 10 v20h2 or later, macOS Monterey v12.0 or later

Here are 3 of the best-performing laptops for animation in 2024:

1. MacBook Pro 14” and 16”

Macbook pro 14" and Macbook pro 16" - best laptops for web animation
MacBook Pro 14″ and 16″

Even though any MacBook Pro from the M-chip series will give you excellent performance, the latest update of MacBook Pro is everything the other Macs included, just better. The new MacBook Pro comes with an M3, M3 Pro, or M3 Max chip, offering more processing cores and memory bandwidth, with the M3 Max processor being equipped with a total of 40 GPU cores.

This update includes an increase in battery life, with an astonishing cordless work capability of up to 22 hours. The Mac also features a Liquid Retina HDR display, a nearly 4k display resolution, giving you the best viewing experience. Additionally, the RAM performance now offers a bigger capacity of up to 128GB for the M3 Max version, and the storage capacity is increased up to 8TB.

Macs typically come with powerful processors, high-resolution displays, and long battery life, making them well-suited for demanding tasks such as 3D animation rendering, video editing, etc. With the help of easy-to-use UI animation tools and software for UX design, animating your designs has never been easier.

2. Asus Rog Zephyrus

Asus rog zephyrus - 2nd laptop choice for web animation
Asus Rog Zephyrus

Asus Rog Zephyrus with its latest 2023 update, comes with some of the highest-end features on the market. The laptop features an i9 intel 13th generation processor with 14 cores and 20 threads, giving you some of the highest speeds and performance.

With its NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 GPU, it allows for smooth and efficient performance in animation work. It also supports up to 64GB of RAM allowing it to handle large projects and multitasking. The beautiful 16” QHD display, with its 240Hz refresh rate, makes a great choice for animation professionals who demand high-quality visuals and smooth motion.

3. Lenovo Legion 5

lenovo legion 5 pro - budget laptop for web design animation
Lenovo Legion Pro 5

Lenovo Legion 5  laptops are a great choice for animation students on a budget. This one offers a powerful performance with a top-tier Ryzen 7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, and an RTX™ 4060 GPU. It is great for software like Krita, FireAlpaca, Adobe Animate, and reliable for 3D software like Blender, and Cinema 4D.

This Legion also features a 1TB SSD. The only downside is that it may not be as lightweight or slim as other options. Despite this, it still can power your work for up to 5-6 hours on battery life. It is an ideal choice for students or professionals on a budget looking for a powerful and reliable device.

Animation Guide for Beginners

If you're new to animation, there are plenty of resources available to help you get started. Here are a few tips for beginners:

1. Start with the basics

If you are wondering how to start animation learning process, you first need to go and read various articles about animation for beginners and introduce yourself to the basics of animation techniques such as keyframe animation, motion graphics, stop-motion animation, etc. 

2. Take an online course

There are many online courses available that can teach you the fundamentals of animation. Here are some courses you can check out:

3. Learn from the experts

Watch tutorials and videos from professional animators to learn more about animation techniques and best practices. Read books written by them as they provide valuable insights and understanding. 

Furthermore, it is important to attend conferences and workshops or find a mentor who can provide a wealth of knowledge and guide you in the process through his experience in the field.

Popular Animators to Get Inspired from 

There are many popular animators in the industry who can inspire junior animators, but here we chose three of the top well-known and influential animators throughout time:

1. Walt Disney

The founder of Walt Disney Productions, Disney, is considered the father of animation. He is best known for creating the iconic characters Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and for founding Walt Disney Productions, which has become one of the largest and most successful motion picture studios in the world. 

2. Hayao Miyazaki

A Japanese film director and animator, Miyazaki is considered one of the most influential animators of all time. Some of his most famous works include "Spirited Away", "Princess Mononoke", "My Neighbor Totoro" and "Howl's Moving Castle". He was awarded an Honorary Academy Award in 2012 and the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2019.

3. Glen Keane

An American animator and character designer, he ​​is best known for his work at Disney Animation Studios. Keane has created many iconic characters for Disney, including Ariel from The Little Mermaid.

He also was the lead animator on the character of the Beast in “Beauty and the Beast”, and contributed to several other films like Tarzan, Pocahontas, Aladdin, etc. In 2018, he won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for his film "Dear Basketball" directed and written by him.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the evolution of animation from traditional to modern and potentially AI-driven methods signifies a remarkable journey in visual storytelling. From the painstaking hand-drawn frames of traditional animation to the seamless and dynamic creations of computer-generated imagery, animation has continually pushed the boundaries of creativity and technology. 

The emergence of AI in animation introduces a new era of efficiency and innovation, promising to revolutionize the industry further. As animation finds its place not only in entertainment but also in web design and various digital platforms, it remains an ever-evolving art form, guided by the visionaries and pioneers who continue to inspire and shape its future.

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