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UX Design
10 minute read

Elevate Your E-commerce Journey With Animated UX Microinteractions

Toptal experts share their insights and best practices for designing motion effects that enhance e-commerce UX and increase conversions.

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When applied throughout e-commerce experiences, animated microinteractions communicate system progress, improve user satisfaction, and increase conversion rates. These subtle motion effects provide quick visual feedback when a user interacts with a UI component, such as a menu or button, and are meant to improve findability and guide users as they navigate between e-commerce pages. In addition to helping users find and buy products, they can foster habit loops that result in repeat customers.

Despite their importance in the e-commerce funnel, animated microinteractions don’t need to be especially fancy. According to UX designer Alexandre Brito, a member of the Toptal network since 2016, even simple animated effects—like the scrollbar, pull-to-refresh, and swipe—can help create intuitive digital shopping experiences.

Animated UX Microinteractions in the E-commerce Sales Funnel

The e-commerce sales funnel has four common steps—homepage, category page, product page, and checkout—that guide users from a company’s initial value proposition to purchase. At each step, more information is revealed. Animated microinteractions aid in this journey of discovery. For example, the search box on an e-commerce homepage might signal interactivity by expanding when a user hovers or taps on it; then it may reveal animated autosuggestions as users type search queries.

“Many e-commerce UI elements have functionalities that can benefit from microinteractions in order to engage the customer and provide vital information,” says Rashni Parichha, a product designer and member of the Toptal network. “For example, when the user adds an item to their cart, scale-down and drop-in-cart microinteractions make this action feel more realistic, as if the user were shopping in a brick and mortar store,” she says. “The more realistic the experience, the deeper the connection between the user and the product, and the more likely a repeat visit to the site.”

The E-commerce Homepage

Digital shoppers have dwindling attention spans and little patience for complex UIs. Homepage design choices, such as navigation, need to be strategic to capture a user’s attention. Animation can make drop-down menus more engaging and reinforce product categorization, making it easier for users to find items and reducing drop-off rates.

Rashni explains that animation that organizes large amounts of information contributes to more intuitive design, which in turn helps to hold a user’s attention.

Parallax scrolling is a powerful animation technique for establishing the visual hierarchy of homepage content, such as product photos, descriptions, and categories. As a user scrolls down the homepage, content appears at intervals and varying speeds, mimicking real-world parallax and acting as a form of progessive disclosure that makes it easier for the user to scan and digest information on the screen.

GIF labeled "Parallax, Trigger: Scroll." A screen below the label shows content presented with the parallax scrolling effect.
Parallax scrolling makes a site background move at a slower rate than the foreground as the user scrolls, creating a 3D-like effect.

The E-commerce Category Page

Direct-to-consumer sites use category pages to present multiple variations of a single product (like a barbell on this fitness equipment manufacturer’s site) while e-commerce marketplaces use category pages to showcase numerous brands selling similar products (like ASOS’s “shirts” page, which features clothing from different retail brands).

Successful category pages allow users to quickly scan their options before digging for more details. To accelerate the product discovery process (and conserve space on mobile) many e-commerce sites use image carousels on their category pages. Ikea’s “Quick View” feature allows rapid navigation through the site’s most popular categories—saving users time and clicks.

Image carousel showing four product categories on the Ikea website.
Ikea’s “Quick View” image carousel allows visitors to preview the most popular product categories on the same page.

Studies show that automatic carousels are frustrating to users because rapid movement can be distracting. In contrast, manual carousels (like Ikea’s) permit users to click or swipe through images, and animated microinteractions that put users in control of their UIs have proved to increase time on page and conversions.

GIF labeled "Carousel, Trigger: Click/Swipe." A mobile app screen below the label shows a series of images in a carousel.
Image carousels allow users to preview several products in a short time without leaving the category page.

For the best image carousel experience, Rashni recommends focusing on smooth transitions and intuitive navigation:

  1. Smooth, continuous slide microinteractions help create the illusion of natural interaction with physical objects. Anticipation at the beginning of the slide animation and follow through at the end will help ensure that your transitions are seamless. Anticipation is the motion before the main action sequence (the left/right slide animation in the image carousel). This brief movement in the opposite direction of the main action helps build momentum and excitement. Similarly, follow through is the subtle motion following the motion sequence, which helps to make the animation seem more realistic.

  2. Navigation should be easily identifiable. Dot or arrow controls help users identify how to move within image carousels. Arrows should show directionality. Dots should be hollow by default and filled to emphasize the current image.

The E-commerce Product Page

Product pages are all about helping users perform actions related to conversion, such as selecting item styles and quantities, adding products to the cart, or bookmarking favorite items. Each of these actions must be validated by feedback.

For example, e-retailer Etsy has a heart icon that allows users to add an item to their favorites. Once clicked or tapped, the resulting animation turns the previously colorless heart red. Although this might seem insignificant, such moments of interactivity improve user satisfaction by confirming input and conveying brand personality.

Additionally, when an interface uses a visual cue like an animated effect to recognize user action, the user feels confident about moving to their next task.

GIF labeled "‘Love' Icon, Trigger: Click/Tap."  Below the label, an image of a sneaker and a heart icon that changes from colorless to blue. Smaller blue hearts then ascend.
The “love” or heart icon used on certain e-commerce platforms allows users to save items to their favorites.

The E-commerce Checkout Page

The best checkout flows are designed to be frictionless: Amazon users can fast-track payment with a one-click “Buy now” button. But checkout is also a time where users need extra guidance as they enter personal information required for purchase.

Progress steppers break purchase information into digestible chunks, like sign-in, delivery, and billing details. Adding animated microinteractions to steppers provides visual feedback that directs and motivates users to complete the checkout process. For example, when a user enters data into a payment form field, an animated progress stepper might show a line traveling from one step (represented by a circle) to the next. Such an effect gives users continuous feedback as they near their goal of making a purchase.

GIF labeled "Progress Stepper, Trigger: Input Data." Below the label, a progress stepper with two dots. The form below the stepper is filled out and the second dot changes state to match that of the first dot.
The progress stepper displays advancement through a sequence of logical and sometimes numbered steps. Each dot represents a step.

Best Practices for Designing Animated E-commerce Microinteractions

Animated microinteractions consist of four parts: triggers, rules, feedback, and loops and modes. Beyond understanding their basic structure, there are several best practices to consider when designing animated microinteractions for e-commerce platforms.

Create an Enticing Habit Loop

The habit loop is a framework for understanding reactionary behaviors. It consists of a cue, a routine, and a reward. Since people return to pleasurable activities, many e-commerce sites offer rewards that encourage repeated actions, such as a savings code that is presented after checkout to coax a future purchase.

Additionally, when we encounter new and exciting things, our brains release dopamine, which creates reward-seeking loops. Animated microinteractions help create these moments of discovery and delight, forming habit loops that spur interaction and ongoing engagement. For example, Etsy introduces an animated notification icon when a user adds an item to their cart or wish list (cue). When the user clicks on the icon (routine), they discover related offers and discounts (reward).

A gray circle. Three boxes along the circumference are labeled "Cue," "Routine," and "Reward."
Well-designed microinteractions can help create habit loops that lead to ongoing user engagement.

Keep Animation Functional

Functional animated microinteractions provide simple visual cues that speed up many processes in the sales funnel. For instance, during checkout, a fade effect upon mouse click will clear an input field’s placeholder text and signal to the user that they can start writing.

GIF labeled "Placeholder Text, Trigger: Click/Tap." Below labels, a username and password form with a "Sign-in" button.
Animated microinteractions provide helpful clues that aid the user in completing forms.

However, if the user clicks out of the field and the placeholder doesn’t return, they may be left feeling frustrated if they can’t recall what the placeholder read. Microinteractions don’t need to be noticed, but they must be implemented in ways that do not take a toll on the user experience. Brito stresses that animations “should complement the user experience, rather than steal focus from it.”

Product designer Muhammad Junaid, a member of the Toptal network since 2020, reiterates that microinteractions should have a clear purpose and avoid distracting users. “On e-commerce sites, they should drive conversion rather than offer mere aesthetic value. Superfluous animation leads to cognitive overload and cart abandonment.”

Use One Microinteraction Per Action

UI components, like call-to-action buttons and shopping cart icons, repeatedly appear throughout individual e-commerce sites. However, the animated microinteractions assigned to those components should be distinct and consistent. Suppose left or right swiping through a category-page image carousel triggers the appearance of animated product photos: The same interaction combination should be used for a product-page image carousel (to match users’ mental models) but not for “Increase Item Quantity” buttons.

From a design standpoint, animating microinteractions introduces a layer of complexity to creative decision-making. Motion imbues UI components with distinct character traits that communicate meaning, and it can be difficult to design and implement a cohesive animation style across an entire e-commerce site. Fortunately, you don’t have to add motion to every e-commerce component: We’ve created an infographic that visualizes high-impact microinteractions to animate at each step of the e-commerce sales funnel.

A series of 12 features and their corresponding microinteractions commonly used on e-commerce platforms, including the search bar, carousel, cart drawer, and payment form.

Making the Most of Animated Microinteractions for E-commerce

Animated microinteractions are an important aspect of e-commerce design that increase engagement, make UI design features more intuitive and informational, and help turn casual shoppers into repeat buyers. By remaining mindful of best practices and expert insights, you can avoid superfluous motion effects and design animated microinteractions that convert.

Further Reading on the Toptal Design Blog

Understanding the basics

Microinteractions are short product interactions that are triggered by a user action or alteration in the system's state, such as a UI button click. Microinteractions provide visual and motion feedback to the user on that action, such as a shake effect.

Microinteractions provide feedback, convey system status, and help prevent user errors. Well-designed microinteractions encourage users to interact with products and complete actions in the user journey.

Animation helps bring web and mobile app interfaces to life, making them more usable and visually appealing.