While studying WPF as new tool for applications with a device-independent resolution, I read that you can make animations rendered with DirectX graphics engine.

So I was wondering if it's worth learning to build animations for business applications ... At first time, I came to my mind charts, any suggestions? What other animation uses in a business interface?


You are mixing two questions that should be answered separately:

  • Is WPF + DirectX a good choice for animations? I would forward that question to StackOverflow
  • Are animations useful in business applications?

To that second question I would answer NO. I see users that love their console-based application as it is lightning fast, straight to the point, with a standardized and predictable behavior.

The only situation where I would accept animation in a business application is when it gives you additional information. If a chart animates showing you the evolution of some data over time, that's useful. If it's just a fancy animation that you have to wait for to read the data, don't add it.

A few cases where animation can be helpful in business applications:

  • Drag & Drop is an animation that shows you where the moved data comes from and goes to.
  • Transition effects can show that something has changed, where an instant change could happen unnoticed. For example in a table of data where a single cell changes, emphasize it with a fading background.
  • As an animation is essentially a time-related data change, any information changing over time can be illustrated by an animation.
  • If a long process that requires the user to wait is running, an animation can help the user not to loose patience.
  • Quick animations that show that data is added/changed is helpfull. (We've got schedule that's filled with detailed analysis 'long' after opening the schedule) – Barfieldmv Nov 11 '11 at 10:25
  • Isn't that my second case of helpful animations? – Mart Nov 11 '11 at 16:14

In general animations aren't really that useful in any application if it's used day in day out by an experienced user. They tend to get in the way (at least in my experience). However, that's not to say that you shouldn't build animations into your application.

Animations work best for the occasional user and for demonstrations.

For the former they reinforce that something is happening and, if done right, can draw the attention to the important part of the screen.

For the latter they look good, if done right, when presenting the application in a sales situation. It makes your application look dynamic and in these days of iPods, iPads and smart phones "modern".

To satisfy these two requirements you will need to build in animations, but have an easy way of turning them off.

  • You can say that animations in business applications are only needed for marketing reasons, so they should be turned off once the application is sold :) – Mart Jan 17 '11 at 14:43
  • @Mart: No, animations shouldn't be turned off by default (when the app is sold), because then the app doesn't live up to the expectations built up by the marketing effort. But it should certainly be incredibly easy to turn them off (or skip them depending on the situation). – Marjan Venema Jan 18 '11 at 6:55
  • @Marjan: well that was a kind of joke, as everybody seems to like animations at first then start to hate them as they are not features and no expectation is associated to them. – Mart Jan 18 '11 at 14:45
  • @Mart, oh, ok, I see the :) now... d'oh – Marjan Venema Jan 18 '11 at 16:33

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