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Animated App Icons because Vegas.

Tim Allison
Apr 23, 2015 · 5 min read

Whilst sat on hold waiting to talk to the local tax authority here in Denmark, I was staring at the home screen of my iPhone 6 and it came to me.

Why aren’t my app icons animated?

I didn’t really think much more about it other than imagining what a few of my homescreen app icons might look like if they were sprinkled with a bit of magic dust.

A few hours later I checked back into Twitter and there was a response and a link from @jasperstocker with this:

I clicked on the link and was greeted with a tremendous image that fairly well summed up what this could look like if done badly.

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Jasper has a point. This could be a mess. The app icon has long been an art form. A persuasive art form. Why mess with it?

The visual analogy I’ll use is the Las Vegas signage in Nevada. Which one of these images best communicates the Las Vegas experience?

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Option A
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Option B

Now imagine there was an app icon for this image. An app icon for ‘Fabulous Las Vegas’. One has flashing lights and the other does not. Which one would you be drawn to? And why?

The 2 images above have different impact — one is not ‘better’ than the other necessarily. And I know which one I’d rather look at for a length of time (Option A). But we don’t stare at our devices without doing anything for long periods of time. We act. We touch.

There were 74.5 million home buttons sold in Q1 of this year. They were attached to iPhones. We press this button a lot. And we often press it without knowing why or which app we are going to engage with. Its become habit.

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Home button.

Notification needs to work smarter.

Notifications have been around since 2007 and is one reason for us opening an app.

Once we have pressed the button we are faced with 28 app icons. What drives us to engage with a software when we have so many options and we’re not really sure why we came?

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Why did you visit?

Apple tells us the notification is used for:

  • A message has arrived

But perhaps the app icon itself that needs to start doing a better job.

What if the app icon becomes a much richer piece of visual design? An immersive and contextual window into the psychology of the app.

What if the app icon becomes like a trailer for a film? The first 20secs of a song? What if the app icon comes alive??

We could do away with menial red circles with numbers in and create better ways to inform the user there is a reason to engage. Make emotional connections. For utility apps like mail, calendars, notes you could easily have subtle animations; envelopes flickering, dates moving, pens scribbling.

There is great opportunity for the animation to strengthen the value proposition of the app.

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I’d be excited to see some of these animations. There are a number of considerations as to when, how and why you’d see them. But we can work that out.

Notification is one reason as to when, how and why — an update to the app is available. Actually, most of the reasons Apple say we should have notification badges currently could be the drivers for new ‘Dynamic Notification’

  • A message has arrived (from who?)

Dynamic Notification could add a layer of context not currently available.

Lets call these ‘Dynamos’.

Settings > Dynamos > On > Off

Lets say for example there is an IOS update you need to install on your device and you have Settings > Dynamos > On

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Now lets say for example a publication you subscribe to has launched a new issue. You have Settings > Dynamos > Newsstand > On.

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Now lets say there was a setting where you could enable Dynamos across all the apps on your device. That might become distracting but lets see…

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Ok - so this might not be the optimal setting.

But giving users the ability to switch Dynamos on in apps they love might be a magical experience for them.

And giving developers and product makers the tools to make a new user experience ‘pre-touch’ might add a whole new level of creative scope. A new level of story telling, product selling.

The app icon has served us well. But as we move into new tech, wearables, new screen sizes and smarter users, shouldn’t the doorway to our experiences be upgraded?

Maybe now its time we switch the lights on.

Any thoughts?

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