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factfile1.11 Animation for the web

Animated graphics are commonplace on the Internet. Two essential considerations for web animators, unlike their counterparts in cinema or television, must be file size and running time. Both are limited by the speed of visitors' internet connections. Designers have to be resourceful and imaginative to overcome these constraints and get their ideas across by making the most of the features of different technologies and by exploiting techniques familiar to other narrative traditions like comic books, film and story-telling.

Web animations generally fall into two main categories: they may function for commercial or non-commercial purposes. You will consider examples of both types in the activities that follow.

Commercial uses

On the web, animated gifs and flash animations are predominantly used as hyperlinked banners, logos and adverts. They have an advantage over printed ads on a magazine page because they are dynamic rather than static. Their purpose is to attract the attention of site visitors, who will consciously or unconsciously register the name of the brand and, ideally, follow the hyperlink to the advertiser's website for the product or service, which is called a 'clickthrough'. Click-throughs can raise revenue for site and blog owners.

The animated banners for Debenhams and John Lewis are examples of these kind of commercial banner adverts, but you will see plenty of these if you spend any amount of time browsing the internet.


John Lewis Banner

Non-commercial uses

Online tutorials and Virtual learning Environments, web games and cartoons, emoticons (Smileys) and avatars (an internet user's virtual representation of him/herself) frequently use animation. Educational websites find animation a useful tool to illustrate techniques or processes, like this example from How Stuff Works explaining how avalanches are formed.


Many multimedia and graphic artists also produce animations as pure entertainment. They aim to explore the potential of the medium as an experimental art form. In creating Gertie the Dinosaur, Winsor McCay hit upon one of the first principles of animation – its potential is only as limited as your imagination and inventiveness!

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