Are we sick of UI motion?

I recently came across the question ‘Is calm the new engaging?’ and it got me thinking. We’ve been told by thought leaders that motion is the best way to engage users with your online brand. But has it been doing the opposite?

Ball in bounce motion with pixel falling apart

In the last 5 or so years we’ve seen a lot of focus on being engaging in UI through animation, scrollytelling, immersive video, motion and audio experiences. 

As a fully able person some of these digital experiences were wonderful, and when done badly were purely irritating. There is definitely a scale of overwhelm at work here where even the most able users are being ‘turned off’ by all the ‘noise’. But now our industry is really waking up to the fact that excessively high levels of motion are really not accessible. 

Not only does it create a barrier to the content but it can even make people with neurodivergence and invisible disabilities feel unwell and even have motion sickness. So how can we still harness the positive benefits of animation whilst being disability-inclusive and restore a bit of calm to the internet for everyone?

Offer control

The best thing you can ever do is offer users a choice. Let them toggle off any motion content before they get to it, thus removing the barrier to them accessing the content they need. Don’t autoplay videos, let users choose to watch them. Remember accessibility can be situational, some days users can handle motion content and some days they can’t. 

Minimum usability need

Ask yourself what the minimum motion required is for a user to access your content and complete a task. Sometimes the answer will be none. Sometimes that will be some: functional motion such as progress indicators can be an integral part of the user experience, without them users can lose trust when doing a task. Sometimes a high level is required: motion and video can be a brilliant education tool within eLearning.

Follow best practices

When you’ve decided on the right level of motion required, keep it simple and follow accessibility best practices:

  • No flashing or flickering - this can trigger seizures in people with photosensitive epilepsy

  • Use closed captions on video as a minimum, or open captions which always display

  • Consider the size of motion to viewport - animation that covers a large area of the screen increases the change of users being triggered by it

  • Avoid parallax scrolling - the foreground and background moving at different speeds can trigger people with vestibular disorders

  • Specify the duration of animation - animations that happen too quickly can be troublesome. Control the speed with CSS. 

  • Don’t loop indefinitely - define how many times an animation will play and give users the chance to pause or stop. 


Accessibility doesn’t need to be dull  ♿️

It’s more about being mindful of using motion and video well. Remember your brand and customer experience is so much more than using motion. There are so many ways you can engage people with your content, products and services in a friendly way. Your logo, colour palette, imagery, graphics, copywriting, alt tags, conversations with customers, customer support and thought pieces all add up to make your brand. Customer engagement is a living breathing thing, with human interaction at its heart. It goes far beyond UI animation. 

In UX we often talk about making a user’s experience delightful. But recently I’ve been questioning whether we really need delight, or is it a nice-to-have? And how does the pursuit of it affect sustainability and accessibility? Read our blog

Blog written by Lizzie

Written by Lizzie