Not too long ago Flash was the hottest thing in web design. The animation abilities it offered seduced many into creating their web presence in this format. While good Flash sites existed, all too often not enough consideration was given to usability or content. Instead, efforts seemed concentrated into making things as “cool” as possible. We all remember the cumbersome menus, excessive loading bars, annoying background music, and extended animation sequences we couldn’t skip right? Luckily people eventually came to the realization that for all the visual pizazz Flash websites provided, there were certain drawbacks. Chief amongst them was the fact that Flash sites really didn’t play nice with search engines.
As SEO grew to be more and more important, Flash websites faded into relative obscurity and animation on the web became a lot less prevalent. As scripting, browsers and web standards have matured, the modern web is starting to become a lot less static once again… and without the drawbacks of Flash. No browser plug-ins need to be installed, no security holes available to exploit, and sites could be easily indexed by search engines.
In this new era of web animation we’re seeing animation being used in subtle ways in the UI…
… for inventive new navigation menus…
… and for cool hover effects!
We’re also seeing the parallax effect evolving and allowing for elaborate animations triggered by the simple act of scrolling. Teehan + Lax, Apple, and Sony are just a few that have created excellent examples of this technique.
Having said all that and as cool as these things are, we must remember the lessons learned from the Flash era of the web. It’s important to remember that we don’t let the allure of the “whiz-bang” seduce us into sacrificing or neglecting user experience, or substituting cool for content. These sorts of cool animation effects should serve as an accent or compliment to your content and not become the central attraction. Compelling and informative content will help your conversions more than a fancy animation. Focus too much on style over substance and your website will be nothing but a *puts on sunglasses* Flash in the pan.