Design and UX September 20, 2020

Why is the web so flat?


Given the power of modern devices and powerful APIs, it begs the question, why aren't website more interactive. The more interactive and memorable the site it, it stands to reason that sales should follow.

Why don't more companies use animation as a way to entice customers and increase sales?

Why more niche markets for web animation products aren't available is beyond me.

Anyone have any insights into this?


  1. 9

    Here's why (in my opinion).

    The golden rule of design is KISS (Keep it Simple).

    Part of that is dealing with cognitive load, and what you're suggesting would increase cognitive load and therefore stop users from wanting to interact with your site.

    Interactions aren't bad, but they need to have a useful purpose. Bells and whistles for the sake of bells and whistles is a terrible move.

    Also I'm not sure how old you are but I would imagine a lot younger than me. When the internet first landed we went through an era of "just because you can, doesn't mean you should"; every web page was overloaded with animations, blinking text, scrolling text... my god like... fake snow. And guess what? It was absolutely shit.

    1. 5

      Snow effects... the good old days.

      1. 2

        Shudders at the memory.

    2. 1

      Aww yiss those marquee tags.

  2. 4

    To answer the question, I think we should ask another one:

    Why do we make websites or webapp?

    For the first, written content is often the focus. If you make things moving with animations, the attention of your users will be on anything which moves, not on the content itself.

    For apps, you need the user to focus on what he can do. Again, useless animations will move the focus away on what's important for the user.

    The attention time on the web is very small, because it's so noisy. Lost the attention of your users and they will leave as fast as they came.

    1. 1

      I like what you did here and think you raise a completely valid question here.

      I don't think every animation is useless. Some can be informative and guide the user. Plus it can actually reduce learning curves for products significantly.

      In the real world, even while driving a car there are plenty of live animations occurring as you drive down the road. I feel like there is an untapped elegant way of delivering tasteful animations for websites with larger audiences.

  3. 2

    Most of the times I see beautiful pages with animation - such as scroll effects, hovers etc., bells and so on I just play with it and leave. If it had effect on few elements like get started button I seem to click it more as compared to animating the whole space.

    1. 1

      I get that but what about pages like Nintendo that utilize parallax scrolling which highlights product features in a very systemic approach. I think this plays into their audience and actually adds value to their site.

      1. 1

        I searched Nintendo and went through the first one, looks like there were almost no effects. But anyway I feel the same way as you, Media, entertainment, products for design enthusiasts and so on these effects kinda fit in like an actual part of the website.

  4. 2

    Animation costs dev time, and dev time costs a lot of money. Animation will most likely get in the way rather than help users become customers. It’s also really hard to make a good animation, let alone make it work well on all devices and screen sizes. Waste of time in other words unless you know exactly what you’re doing.

    1. 2

      I’d say even if you do know exactly what you’re doing, it’s still a waste of time.

      If it worked companies like Amazon, google and Facebook - where developer resource grows on trees - would be doing it.

      1. 1

        You raise a very interesting point here. Those companies all have deep pockets. Google prides themselves on minimalistic simplicity so I understand that one (though they actually have really good browser games once in a while). Why Amazon does not have for example a flying affect when products get added to the cart is beyond me. In fact, in thinking about this more, apps like Netflix start to autoplay trailers when simply hovering over movie titles is a nice touch. I'm surprised Amazon doesn't have something similar to try and get customers to purchase products while hovering.

        1. 1

          So go with me on this one, seriously.

          Why would having something fly into a cart when you hover over it (or whatever your idea is) increase sales?

  5. 2

    Because it's overwhelming and adds little value. It's cool the first time you see all that eyecandy, but the next time you move to another site.

  6. 2

    yes, sites used to be animated and with sounds
    it sucked
    so people stopped

    it removed usefulness, easy, speed, don't account for situations like people browsing at work/with other people around, movement is distractive from the main points...
    most people do a really crappy job at executing on these ideas in a productive way, you need UX experts
    it's way more expensive
    still once in a while big media try something for enthusiasm... especially like product launches, media rich niches, phiscial event or product ads...

    lets say doing it right is 100x harder and the benefits are really low relatively


    1. 1

      Thank goodness flash's days are numbered. What you're describing reminds me of myspace. That was quite an era of 'bad web design'. Mainly because you had amateurs across the web trying to take a stab at 'creativity'. I do believe that small tasteful web animations/transitions can improve the overall user experience even still.

  7. 1

    It's because designers and product managers do not know what the web is capable of and base their designs and decisions off of static mocks. I have run into this for years, I'm a tech lead and an engineering manager and freelance on the side. I know the web - so for my side stuff, I keep it rich with nice effects etc. But battling during my day job with designers and directors who don't know jack about the difference between a single page app with transitions and an immersive experience vs static server rendered pages is a losing battle. Designers will mock up stuff in figma and that's what gets signoff. The interaction isn't what gets signoff - because hey, "it's a website, it just works how it works." This happens all over at companies across the globe, and that interaction piece is what engineers know that designers and product people don't. Yes, some do, but most don't. It's this simple.

  8. 1

    You must have missed myspace and angelfire. It was not a period of nice design, or conversion optimization.

    But I bet if you look at the AB tests your assumption is wrong and animations and too much interactivity drove down conversions. It's been awhile since I've looked at all those stats, but remember 5 or 7 years ago whenever website had a slider on the home page right below the navbar? It was about 5 or 6 years ago when it became known that those actually lowered click through rates in conversion funnels. If it worked uber, airbnb, etc, would be doing it, these companies that have teams dedicated to conversion rates and the bandwidth with budgets to do what they want.

    Another example, yahoo, AOL, and microsoft had crowded and interactive search pages, google went simple, and now we say "google it"

    The KISS principle is prime.

  9. 1

    I don't use animations on my sites, just micro interactions if needed for example

    Who's got time for that?

  10. 1

    I definitely think more creativity & artistic touch would be nice on the web - seems like everyone's been copying the minimalist flat vector trend that started a few years ago, and it all becomes samey. There's such a huge creative space of visual & artistic possibilities that few are exploring, perhaps because it's not in fashion. I kinda miss Apple's early iOS skeumorphism - semi-realistic textures, real life visual metaphors, etc.

    Not sure about animations though - like others have said they have the pesky habit of distracting attention away from the content.

    1. 1

      I agree with you completely. I believe there is something untapped here. Not every 'more modern' approach is for the better. If you reference the latest and greatest upcoming OS Big Sur the design aesthetic looks a bit cartoony to me. Initially, I thought it was a step backwards but now it feels oddly fresh. What I find most interesting is that Apple's app icons have gotten much more detailed. The icons are my favorite part.

  11. 1

    To play devil's advocate to most of the opinions here, I would point to Apple. Their product pages are packed with the most advanced scroll animations. I they do alright in terms of sales.

    It depends on the product, brand and target audience. Loads of animation on a massive marketplace site like amazon makes no sense. But if you selling hi end tech products. Like apple it's not a bad idea.

    One thing to mention, and Apple are massively guilty here, animations making your pages BIG. So you're most likely giving a rubbish experience to people with poor Internet connection and older devices. Again tho, maybe that's not a concern considering who you're targeting.

  12. 1

    It's not that easy to get animations that actually add value. Few companies have nailed it.

    Stripe is a great example. This is one of the best animations I've seen that actually add value (going through the tutorial as you scroll):

    1. 1

      It's funny you referenced Stripe. I worked with a front-end web dev and he used to use Stripe as a benchmark for almost a staple in animations. I personally think its very clean and adds a modern feel. He referenced mainly some of their menu transitions which added a nice touch and ultimately ended up impressing the client who was paying to build a new site from scratch. Hard to calculate just how much value this added overall.

  13. 1

    I'd say that if animations really increased conversions, more sites would add them. I don't think animations have such an effect, though.

  14. 1

    Animations and "interactiveness" are obtrusive and add friction, if anything sales will decrease.

    Look at Amazon, they haven't updated their design since 2000 (sort of) and yet people still use it more than ever.

    1. 1

      I agree with you in that Amazon has not changed much over the years. It wasn't till a couple of weeks ago that they now have this floating dock towards the bottom (in their iOS app). My initial reaction was I do not like it and I wish it didn't change cause I used to know where everything was. After using it for a little bit, it isn't so bad but seems just out of the norm when compared to other apps. I'm curious to know how it has affected their conversion rate.

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