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Design Spells

Design Spells is a big collection of animations and fun, interactive details taken from all over the web. Lots of these are stressful and overwhelming to me but there’s some particularly absurd things in here I love like Webflow’s ridiculous 404 page or Vercel’s interactive conference badge.

If you’re looking for something to make a Codepen out of, then this is also a fantastic resource to pick something, copy it, and learn how they made it under the hood.

New magic for animations in CSS

Cool, punk rock stuff coming in hot off the press from Chase McCoy here:

There are two new features coming to CSS that will make it much easier to further avoid JavaScript when implementing animations:

  1. Animating to and from display: none; for the sake of enter/exit animations.
  2. Animating to and from the intrinsic size of an element (such as height: auto;).

Traditionally, animating something into our out of the screen (as opposed to just hiding it visually) required JavaScript to remove the element from the page after waiting for the animation or transition to complete. No longer!

This is a BIG deal. I feel like maybe 50% of my late-night panicked CSS-related searches are about these two topics alone. Perhaps the most eye-opening part of Chase’s blog post though is this bit:

.item {
	@starting-style {
		opacity: 0;
	}

	opacity: 1;
	transition: opacity 0.5s;
}

This @starting-style chap is for when you want an element to be hidden by default but then fade in. And Una Kravets and Joey Arhar wrote about this a while back for the Chrome blog where they have a fantastic demo of a todo list in which each new item added is invisible by default with @starting-style and then expands into view.

I can see myself using these new CSS animations in every project from now until the end of time!

Time-based CSS animations

This post by Chuan about time-based CSS animations has a ton of bonkers CSS tricks that are worth checking out:

After years of wait, CSS now has enough Math functions supported, particularly mod(), round(), and trigonometric functions. It's time to revisit the time-based way of animation, hope it'll be more useful this time.

Chuan uses these functions to set up a custom variable via the CSS Houdini API and then track the time in milliseconds. So beware, this is pretty wild stuff:

@property --t {
	syntax: "<integer>";
	initial-value: 0;
	inherits: true;
}

@keyframes tick {
	from {
		--t: 0;
	}
	to {
		--t: 86400000;
	}
}

:root {
	animation: tick 86400000ms linear infinite;
}

Chaun also works on css-doodle which is a web component for drawing cool and elaborate patterns. All of this stuff is very much worth checking out!

Unleash the power of scroll-driven animations

Here’s a great video course about the power of scroll driven animations by Bramus and he takes what we already know about CSS animations but gets into the nitty gritty new-ness of binding these fancy animations to the reader’s scrolling behavior.

Speaking of which, here’s Bramus writing about them in his ever-so-excellent demo page from a while back:

Scroll-driven animations are a common UX pattern on the web. These are animations that are linked to the scroll position of a scroll container. This means that as you scroll up or down, the linked animation scrubs forward or backward in direct response. Think of interesting effects such as parallax background images or reading indicators which move as you scroll.

What clicked for me in Bramus’s video series is that with CSS alone we can now detect if an element is visible in its “scrollport” and then animate it in or out or upside down. So it’s not just about adding big, fancy (and often annoying!) animations to the page. Instead, I think subtle examples like this stacking card effect is where scroll-driven animations are going to really shine. But that’s just my hunch!

Either way, I’m extremely excited about all this stuff because I think it’ll lead to more performant scrolling animations but it also unlocks untold power for us web designers to make subtle visual changes to the reading experience.