A Handy Little System for Animated Entrances in CSS

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Neale Van Fleet on (Updated on )

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I love little touches that make a website feel like more than just a static document. What if web content wouldn’t just “appear” when a page loaded, but instead popped, slid, faded, or spun into place? It might be a stretch to say that movements like this are always useful, though in some cases they can draw attention to certain elements, reinforce which elements are distinct from one another, or even indicate a changed state. So, they’re not totally useless, either.

So, I put together a set of CSS utilities for animating elements as they enter into view. And, yes, this pure CSS. It not only has a nice variety of animations and variations, but supports staggering those animations as well, almost like a way of creating scenes.

You know, stuff like this:

Which is really just a fancier version of this:

We’ll go over the foundation I used to create the animations first, then get into the little flourishes I added, how to stagger animations, then how to apply them to HTML elements before we also take a look at how to do all of this while respecting a user’s reduced motion preferences.

The basics

The core idea involves adding a simple CSS @keyframes animation that’s applied to anything we want to animate on page load. Let’s make it so that an element fades in, going from opacity: 0 to opacity: 1 in a half second:

.animate {
  animation-duration: 0.5s;
  animation-name: animate-fade;
  animation-delay: 0.5s;
  animation-fill-mode: backwards;
}

@keyframes animate-fade {
  0% { opacity: 0; }
  100% { opacity: 1; }
}

Notice, too, that there’s an animation-delay of a half second in there, allowing the rest of the site a little time to load first. The animation-fill-mode: backwards is there to make sure that our initial animation state is active on page load. Without this, our animated element pops into view before we want it to.

If we’re lazy, we can call it a day and just go with this. But, CSS-Tricks readers aren’t lazy, of course, so let’s look at how we can make this sort of thing even better with a system.

Fancier animations

It’s much more fun to have a variety of animations to work with than just one or two. We don’t even need to create a bunch of new @keyframes to make more animations. It’s simple enough to create new classes where all we change is which frames the animation uses while keeping all the timing the same.

There’s nearly an infinite number of CSS animations out there. (See animate.style for a huge collection.) CSS filters, like blur(), brightness() and saturate() and of course CSS transforms can also be used to create even more variations.

But for now, let’s start with a new animation class that uses a CSS transform to make an element “pop” into place.

.animate.pop {
  animation-duration: 0.5s;
  animation-name: animate-pop;
  animation-timing-function: cubic-bezier(.26, .53, .74, 1.48);
}

@keyframes animate-pop {
  0% {
    opacity: 0;
    transform: scale(0.5, 0.5);
  }

  100% {
    opacity: 1;
    transform: scale(1, 1);
  }
}

I threw in a little cubic-bezier() timing curve, courtesy of Lea Verou’s indispensable cubic-bezier.com for a springy bounce.

Adding delays

We can do better! For example, we can animate elements so that they enter at different times. This creates a stagger that makes for complex-looking motion without a complex amount of code.

This animation on three page elements using a CSS filter, CSS transform, and staggered by about a tenth of a second each, feels really nice:

All we did there was create a new class for each element that spaces when the elements start animating, using animation-delay values that are just a tenth of a second apart.

.delay-1 { animation-delay: 0.6s; }  
.delay-2 { animation-delay: 0.7s; }
.delay-3 { animation-delay: 0.8s; }

Everything else is exactly the same. And remember that our base delay is 0.5s, so these helper classes count up from there.

Respecting accessibility preferences

Let’s be good web citizens and remove our animations for users who have enabled their reduced motion preference setting:

@media screen and (prefers-reduced-motion: reduce) {
  .animate { animation: none !important; }
}

This way, the animation never loads and elements enter into view like normal. It’s here, though, that is worth a reminder that “reduced” motion doesn’t always mean “remove” motion.

Applying animations to HTML elements

So far, we’ve looked at a base animation as well as a slightly fancier one that we were able to make even fancier with staggered animation delays that are contained in new classes. We also saw how we can respect user motion preferences at the same time.

Even though there are live demos that show off the concepts, we haven’t actually walked though how to apply our work to HTML. And what’s cool is that we can use this on just about any element, whether its a div, span, article, header, section, table, form… you get the idea.

Here’s what we’re going to do. We want to use our animation system on three HTML elements where each element gets three classes. We could hard-code all the animation code to the element itself, but splitting it up gives us a little animation system we can reuse.

  • .animate: This is the base class that contains our core animation declaration and timing.
  • The animation type: We’ll use our “pop” animation from before, but we could use the one that fades in as well. This class is technically optional but is a good way to apply distinct movements.
  • .delay-<number>: As we saw earlier, we can create distinct classes that are used to stagger when the animation starts on each element, making for a neat effect. This class is also optional.

So our animated elements might now look like:

<h2 class="animate pop">One!</h2>
<h2 class="animate pop delay-1">Two!</h2>
<h2 class="animate pop delay-2">Three!</h2>

Let’s count them in!

Conclusion

Check that out: we started with a seemingly basic set of @keyframes and turned it into a full-fledged system for applying interesting animations for elements entering into view.

This is ridiculously fun, of course. But the big takeaway for me is how the examples we looked at form a complete system that can be used to create a baseline, different types of animations, staggered delays, and an approach for respecting user motion preferences. These, to me, are all the ingredients for a flexible system that’s easy to use. It gives us a lot with a little, without a bunch of extra cruft.

What we covered could indeed be a full animation library. But, of course, I didn’t stop there. I have my entire CSS file of animations in all its glory for you. There are several more types of animations in there, including 15 classes of different delays that can be used for staggering things. I’ve been using these on my own projects, but it’s still an early draft and I would love feedback on it. Please enjoy and let me know what you think in the comments!

/* ==========================================================================
Animation System by Neale Van Fleet from Rogue Amoeba
========================================================================== */
.animate {
  animation-duration: 0.75s;
  animation-delay: 0.5s;
  animation-name: animate-fade;
  animation-timing-function: cubic-bezier(.26, .53, .74, 1.48);
  animation-fill-mode: backwards;
}

/* Fade In */
.animate.fade {
  animation-name: animate-fade;
  animation-timing-function: ease;
}

@keyframes animate-fade {
  0% { opacity: 0; }
  100% { opacity: 1; }
}

/* Pop In */
.animate.pop { animation-name: animate-pop; }

@keyframes animate-pop {
  0% {
    opacity: 0;
    transform: scale(0.5, 0.5);
  }
  100% {
    opacity: 1;
    transform: scale(1, 1);
  }
}

/* Blur In */
.animate.blur {
  animation-name: animate-blur;
  animation-timing-function: ease;
}

@keyframes animate-blur {
  0% {
    opacity: 0;
    filter: blur(15px);
  }
  100% {
    opacity: 1;
    filter: blur(0px);
  }
}

/* Glow In */
.animate.glow {
  animation-name: animate-glow;
  animation-timing-function: ease;
}

@keyframes animate-glow {
  0% {
    opacity: 0;
    filter: brightness(3) saturate(3);
    transform: scale(0.8, 0.8);
  }
  100% {
    opacity: 1;
    filter: brightness(1) saturate(1);
    transform: scale(1, 1);
  }
}

/* Grow In */
.animate.grow { animation-name: animate-grow; }

@keyframes animate-grow {
  0% {
    opacity: 0;
    transform: scale(1, 0);
    visibility: hidden;
  }
  100% {
    opacity: 1;
    transform: scale(1, 1);
  }
}

/* Splat In */
.animate.splat { animation-name: animate-splat; }

@keyframes animate-splat {
  0% {
    opacity: 0;
    transform: scale(0, 0) rotate(20deg) translate(0, -30px);
    }
  70% {
    opacity: 1;
    transform: scale(1.1, 1.1) rotate(15deg);
  }
  85% {
    opacity: 1;
    transform: scale(1.1, 1.1) rotate(15deg) translate(0, -10px);
  }

  100% {
    opacity: 1;
    transform: scale(1, 1) rotate(0) translate(0, 0);
  }
}

/* Roll In */
.animate.roll { animation-name: animate-roll; }

@keyframes animate-roll {
  0% {
    opacity: 0;
    transform: scale(0, 0) rotate(360deg);
  }
  100% {
    opacity: 1;
    transform: scale(1, 1) rotate(0deg);
  }
}

/* Flip In */
.animate.flip {
  animation-name: animate-flip;
  transform-style: preserve-3d;
  perspective: 1000px;
}

@keyframes animate-flip {
  0% {
    opacity: 0;
    transform: rotateX(-120deg) scale(0.9, 0.9);
  }
  100% {
    opacity: 1;
    transform: rotateX(0deg) scale(1, 1);
  }
}

/* Spin In */
.animate.spin {
  animation-name: animate-spin;
  transform-style: preserve-3d;
  perspective: 1000px;
}

@keyframes animate-spin {
  0% {
    opacity: 0;
    transform: rotateY(-120deg) scale(0.9, .9);
  }
  100% {
    opacity: 1;
    transform: rotateY(0deg) scale(1, 1);
  }
}

/* Slide In */
.animate.slide { animation-name: animate-slide; }

@keyframes animate-slide {
  0% {
    opacity: 0;
    transform: translate(0, 20px);
  }
  100% {
    opacity: 1;
    transform: translate(0, 0);
  }
}

/* Drop In */
.animate.drop { 
  animation-name: animate-drop; 
  animation-timing-function: cubic-bezier(.77, .14, .91, 1.25);
}

@keyframes animate-drop {
0% {
  opacity: 0;
  transform: translate(0,-300px) scale(0.9, 1.1);
}
95% {
  opacity: 1;
  transform: translate(0, 0) scale(0.9, 1.1);
}
96% {
  opacity: 1;
  transform: translate(10px, 0) scale(1.2, 0.9);
}
97% {
  opacity: 1;
  transform: translate(-10px, 0) scale(1.2, 0.9);
}
98% {
  opacity: 1;
  transform: translate(5px, 0) scale(1.1, 0.9);
}
99% {
  opacity: 1;
  transform: translate(-5px, 0) scale(1.1, 0.9);
}
100% {
  opacity: 1;
  transform: translate(0, 0) scale(1, 1);
  }
}

/* Animation Delays */
.delay-1 {
  animation-delay: 0.6s;
}
.delay-2 {
  animation-delay: 0.7s;
}
.delay-3 {
  animation-delay: 0.8s;
}
.delay-4 {
  animation-delay: 0.9s;
}
.delay-5 {
  animation-delay: 1s;
}
.delay-6 {
  animation-delay: 1.1s;
}
.delay-7 {
  animation-delay: 1.2s;
}
.delay-8 {
  animation-delay: 1.3s;
}
.delay-9 {
  animation-delay: 1.4s;
}
.delay-10 {
  animation-delay: 1.5s;
}
.delay-11 {
  animation-delay: 1.6s;
}
.delay-12 {
  animation-delay: 1.7s;
}
.delay-13 {
  animation-delay: 1.8s;
}
.delay-14 {
  animation-delay: 1.9s;
}
.delay-15 {
  animation-delay: 2s;
}

@media screen and (prefers-reduced-motion: reduce) {
  .animate {
    animation: none !important;
  }
}