The Best JavaScript & CSS Animation Libraries for UI Designers

Today we’re going to run through 9 free, well-coded animation libraries best suited for UI design work – covering their strengths and weaknesses, and when to choose each.

Front-end web design has been through a revolution in the last decade. At the end of the day, most of us were still designing static magazine layouts. Nowadays, we are manufacturing “digital machines” with thousands of resizing, coordinated, moving parts.

quite simply, Great UI Designers Need to Be Great Animators Too – With a solid working understanding of web animation techniques and techniques.

Keep in mind that we’re looking at each library from the perspective of a code-savvy UI designer, not a “code guru” developer. Some of these libraries are pure CSS. There are other JavaScript, but none require anything other than basic HTML/CSS and/or JavaScript understanding to be useful.

Our Top 9 Animation Libraries List

  1. Lottie.js: Great for vector-based animations at any scale
  2. animate.css: Best for small, targeted UI manipulations
  3. Greensock (GSAP): Fully featured but huge animation platform capable of doing anything from game to application dev
  4. animeJS
  5. magic animation
  6. zdog
  7. cssshake
  8. hover.css
  9. ANIJS

Let’s be clear: lottizzo is very different type of the animation library for the other eight on this list. Still, we don’t think UI/UX designers can ignore it.

Creating Lottie animations is similar to creating a video production. You’ll need a third-party animation tool that can export a ‘lotty-ready’ JSON file. In fact, the Lottie format was specifically designed to make Adobe After Effects Animations work efficiently on web and mobile. This makes Lottie animations fast, efficient, easily scripted and often quite beautiful.

Although Lottie was conceived as an extension of Adobe After EffectsOf course, there are lots of (arguably better) ‘lotty-native’ options for creating Lottie animations. This includes:

Lottie uses different ‘animation players’ optimized for the web, iOS and Android respectively. Lottie code base is developed and maintained by? airbnb And behind it is a growing exuberant, passionate community.

  • creator, airbnb
  • free: 2015
  • Popularity, Stars on GitHub
  • description: “Lottie is an iOS, Android and React Native library that provides real-time After Effects animations.”
  • GitHub, Lottie Web , Lottie iOS , Lottie Android
  • License, License

animate.css One of the smallest and easiest-to-use CSS animation libraries. It’s refined, efficient, streamlined since its 2013 release.

Applying the animate library to your project is as simple as adding the CSS and adding the necessary CSS classes to your HTML elements. Of course, you can also use jQuery or vanilla JS to trigger animations on a particular event if you want.

animate.css

  • creator, Daniel Eden
  • free: 2013
  • current version:v4.1.1
  • Popularity, Stars on GitHub
  • description: “A cross-browser library of CSS animations. As easy to use as a simple thing.”
  • Library Size: 70 KB (Min)
  • GitHub,
  • License, animate.css The Best JavaScript & CSS Animation Libraries for UI Designers

At the time of writing, it is still one of the most popular and widely used CSS animation libraries and its small file is small enough to be included in mobile websites as well.

Animate.css is still under active development. Watch out for version 4, which will support CSS custom properties (aka CSS variables). It is one of the simplest and most robust animation libraries and we would not hesitate to use it in any project.

Greensock (or GSAP – Greensock Animation Platform) is the Swiss army knife of web animation. For smooth-playing attractive and sophisticated animations, GSAP is ideal. You can animate anything from DOM elements to SVGs, and its ecosystem includes some amazing plugins that let you do all kinds of fun things, like, morphing SVG, drawing SVG strokes, scrolling functionality , scrambling text and more. It’s fast, cross-browser compatible, and its syntax is straightforward and intuitive.

Greensock (GSAP)

  • current version: 3.10.4
  • Popularity, Stars on GitHub
  • description: “Ultra High-Performance, Professional-Grade Animation for the Modern Web.”
  • size of library: 313 kB (small folder containing the lightweight download of the library)
  • GitHub,
  • License: Standard no charge license mixed with paid model for exclusive features and plugins. see licensing page for more information.

GSAP is modular, so you can pick and choose which parts of the library you need for your project, which is great for keeping file sizes under control.

If you are looking for something powerful yet intuitive with awesome documentation and community support, I would definitely recommend you to give this animation library a shot in your next project. You will be enthusiastic.

animeJS The newest addition to our list, but has seen a lot of converts since its creation. It’s incredibly versatile and powerful and wouldn’t be out of place for powering HTML game animations. The only real question isIs it overkill for simple web apps?,

Perhaps. But since it’s fast, small, and relatively easy to learn, it’s hard to find fault with.

animeJS described as “Lightweight JavaScript animation library with a simple yet powerful API. It works with CSS properties, SVG, DOM attributes and JavaScript objects“Great.

1570508713screencast animejs.com The Best JavaScript & CSS Animation Libraries for UI Designers

This project is available on GitHub,

  • creator, Julian Garnier
  • free: 2016
  • current version:v3.2.1
  • Popularity, Stars on GitHub
  • description: “Anime.js is a lightweight JavaScript animation library with a simple yet powerful API.”
  • size of library: 16.8 KB (Min)
  • GitHub,
  • License,anime The Best JavaScript & CSS Animation Libraries for UI Designers

Most impressively, Anime.JS has amazing “documentation” that showcases HTML, JavaScript code, and working examples in a beautiful app environment.

In short, if you’re comfortable with JavaScript animation solutions, it’s hard to find reasons to ignore AnimeJS.

Magic Animation has been one of the most influential animation libraries available. It has many different animations, many of which are quite unique to this library. Like animate.css, you can apply magic just by importing a CSS file. You can also implement animations using jQuery. This project provides a particularly nice demo application.

magic animation site

  • current version: 1.4.1
  • Popularity, Stars on GitHub
  • description: “CSS3 Animations with Special Effects”
  • size of library: 54.9 KB (Small)
  • GitHub,
  • License, magic The Best JavaScript & CSS Animation Libraries for UI Designers

Magic Animation has a moderate file size in comparison to Animate.css and is known for its signature animations, such as magic effects, silly effects, and bomb effects.

If you are looking for something out of the ordinary, go for it. You won’t be disappointed.

Zdog is a JavaScript library by David DeSandro for creating 3D designs and animations. With its help you can create your designs by using Elements or SVGs and bring them to life in smooth animations with sleek 3D effects.

zdog

  • current version: 1.1.0
  • Popularity, Stars on GitHub
  • description: “round, flat, designer-friendly
    Pseudo-3D Engine for Canvas and SVG
  • size of library: 28 KB (Min)
  • GitHub,
  • License, zdog The Best JavaScript & CSS Animation Libraries for UI Designers

If you’re familiar with JavaScript, you’ll learn the basics of ZDog pretty quickly: it has a straightforward declarative API, great documentation, and lots of learning resources. Check out my introduction to Zdog on SitePoint.

cssshake It delivers exactly what it says on the box – a CSS library specifically designed for moving elements within your web page. As you might expect, there are many variations available for moving your web components.

cssshake

Apple popularized the UI trope of vigorously shaking a UI element (a dialog, modal, or textbox) when a user entered the wrong response – imitating a person’s head shaking. CSShake offers a range of interesting “shake” animations and there is no shortage of variation in this library.

hover.css Your website has a CSS animation library designed for use with buttons and other UI elements. It has really nice 2D transitions along with many other well-crafted animations.

hover.css

  • current version: 2.3.2
  • Popularity, Stars on GitHub
  • description: “Easily apply to your own elements, modify or just use for inspiration.”
  • size of library: 93.0 KB (Min)
  • GitHub,
  • License: Free personal/open-source licenses and paid commercial licenses based on requirements. For details, read License section on GitHub,

Hover.css is best suited for animating discrete page elements such as buttons, logos, SVG components, or featured images, rather than large, complex page animations. Arguably, its most notable animation effects are its distinctive speech bubbles and curls.

Our final library is interesting for its unique approach. ANIJS is an animation library that allows you to add animations to elements in a simple ‘sentence-like’ structure. Take the following format:

If Click, Feather square, Doing wobble animated To .container-box

<div data-anijs="if: click, do: flipInY, to: .container-box">div>

If you’re not overly familiar with JavaScript, this can be a great way to step into JS-choreographed movements.

ANIJS

  • creator, Dariel Noelle
  • free: 2014
  • current version: 0.9.3
  • Popularity, Stars on GitHub
  • description: “A library to enhance your web design without coding.”
  • size of library: 10.5 KB
  • GitHub,
  • License,anijs The Best JavaScript & CSS Animation Libraries for UI Designers

NIJS is a library with very reasonable size factoring in its functionality. The format it uses for implementation is quite original and different than other animation libraries (which many others may seem unconventional).

Nevertheless, this library is worth trying at least once for your projects.

Which library should you choose?

There are many animation libraries out there ready and waiting to be implemented in your project. Listed above are some with the best combination of sophistication and sustainability.

If you are looking for an easy to implement, well tested CSS solution, animate.css Perhaps the most versatile, “bang-for-buck” option available.

If you are looking for a more complete, powerful JavaScript base to power online games, simulators, models and other sophisticated applications, greensock And animeJS It is very difficult to divide.

If your art style is strongly vector based and you have a Lottie-enabled animation tool, it’s hard to ignore Lottie’s smooth movement and efficiency.

Although using an animation library in your web application can certainly improve interactivity, overdoing it defeats the purpose and often leaves the user confused. Be careful and use animations judiciously.

Do you use animation libraries for your projects? Which are your favorite animation libraries?

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