User manual motion graphics add clarity and interest to digital documentation.
Good user manual motion graphics can illustrate procedures faster and more clearly than words and pictures can. Videos, cinemagraphs, animated gifs, and microinteractions are useful in different contexts. Knowing when to choose each type of motion graphic can make or break your user manual design. Here are some tips for making quality motion graphics for your digital user manual.
Videos offer almost unlimited depth of explanation. Narrators can supplement recordings with important details and warnings. Users have complete control over starting, stopping, and replaying the video at their own pace. Videos are readily shared on popular platforms like YouTube.
Videos can be expensive to produce. Minor product changes can render entire videos obsolete. Using videos for simple procedures can overcomplicate and even annoy users who just want simple instructions.
Before you record your first video, develop a brand-wide style to give users consistent experiences. Invest the time to storyboard your procedure into clear steps. Finally, strive for professional excellence in your camera work, lighting, acting, editing, and implementation.
Cinemagraphs creatively depict repetitive movement. Once you know how to make them, they are relatively quick and easy to produce. This simplicity helps your user manuals keep step with product changes.
Cinemagraphs are trendy at the time of writing. Unfortunately, what’s trendy may become outdated unexpectedly. Some steps may not be repetitive enough for a true cinemagraph.
Cinemagraphs compliment lifestyle brands especially well. Their capture moments in time, movement in stillness. With some creativity, developers can create emotional responses right in the middle of an otherwise uninspiring procedure.
Animated gifs are like illustrated videos without sound. They don’t require translation. Old assets can be updated later when products change. Animated gifs can depict objects that cameras can’t capture easily, such as parts in confined spaces or interior views.
Users can feel annoyed when short animated gifs autoplay without a way to stop them. It’s even worse if these gifs slow down the browser. Also, custom animation and technical illustration can be more expensive and time-consuming than other user manual motion graphics.
Developers should give users a play/pause button for every animated gif. Experiment a bit to calibrate the right speed so animations are slow enough to understand without being boring.
image credit: Dribbble
Microinteractions are visual elements that improve user experiences as they interact with your user manual. Microinteractions can add tangibility to user manual interactions, indicate transitions from one step to the next, or signal the completion of a procedure.
While unique microinteractions are compelling and engaging, they often require custom coding that may prove costly. Microinteractions are usually surprises. Avoid hiding documentation behind unpredictable microinteractions.
Creative microinteractions can increase user confidence. They instill a sense of accomplishment. They express a brand’s ingenuity and can even elicit a smile.