In today’s digital world, content competes for our attention every time we go online.
The quality of digital content has rocketed, with no-code web creation platforms making it easier for anyone to create stunning web pages. This is forcing content creators to think outside the box and find new ways to grab and hold our attention—from building complex interactive websites to telling stories visually. When it comes to data, things are no different: static data visualizations are out, and animated charts are in.
What is an Animated Chart?
An animated chart is a way of visualizing data by adding movement. Data by its very nature can be bulky and confusing, and data visualizations like charts and graphs have been effective ways to make information easier to digest. But in a world where audiences now expect interactivity, static content is no longer enough. Animation is needed to engage audiences and bring your charts to life.
The Impact of Animated Charts
Animated charts don’t just look nice; they can actually make complex information easier to understand. You can use animations to direct your audience’s focus and draw their eyes to key points on a chart. Rather than overwhelming people by overloading them with data, animated charts help you set the right pace, allowing audiences to gain a deeper understanding of the data presented.
Research shows that audiences prefer animated charts not only because they’re more engaging, but because they’re also more enjoyable. A study by Microsoft comparing static and animated charts found that participants preferred the animated visualizations because they were “fun”, “exciting”, or even “emotionally touching”. As the “storytelling” boom in modern marketing indicates, if you want your content to be engaging and memorable you need it to connect with people’s emotions.
Animated charts can boost engagement, convey information more effectively, and create emotional attachment, and these three points are precisely why they’ve become such vital tools for all kinds of organizations: you can use animated charts in presentations to present business data; in investor decks to drive decisions; in marketing reports to showcase trends; and woven throughout annual reports to build meaning around a brand.
Animated charts are the simplest way to present a complex story and illustrate trends.
Best Practices for Animated Charts
When animation is misused within data visualization, it can quickly cause confusion. So, what best practices should we follow to ensure our animated charts are effective? Here are a few golden rules to always keep in mind.
One major perk of animated charts compared to static is that they allow you to control the pace of information flow—guiding your audience’s eyes to critical information. However, there’s no point taking the time to add animations to your chart if they’re moving too fast for the human eye to follow.
At the same time, animation speed shouldn't be so slow that it bores your audience. Research suggests that the optimal speed for animation is between 200 and 500 ms—any faster and the audience may not notice, any slower and it will create a sense of delay. This may vary based on the nature of your animation or the context it sits in, so you still need to use your own judgment to find the optimum speed.
Keep It Simple
It’s also important to be selective with the data you decide to highlight. Don’t include it all, just because the format allows you to—that will just saturate your chart with mountains of data. Only include data that will be important to your audience; data that helps you convey a point, or gives a visual overview of trends.
Similarly, keep the animations themselves relatively simple: focus on how you can use them to better convey information and enhance understanding of the data. Animation for the sake of animation will just detract from this purpose. Too many moving parts in an animated chart can be overwhelming.
Maintain the Overall Design
Ensure that the design of your animated chart meshes with the overall style of your content and brand. Stylistic consistency, whether it’s colors or fonts or types of animations, won’t only help your audience better understand your chart, it’ll also help it flow more naturally with the rest of the content.
Animated charts are only useful if they’re relevant to the surrounding content. All data visualizations need context, so make sure they’re supported with supplemental content, whether that’s text or video. Animated charts should never be the only means of getting information across.
5 Examples of Animated Charts in Action
Now we’ve covered the theory behind animated charts, let’s jump into the fun part: reviewing them in the wild. We’ve compiled some of our favorite animated charts examples that showcase both the versatility and effectiveness of this type of content—and the different design techniques you can apply to your own data storytelling.
Human Rights House Foundation
This annual report from non-profit Human Rights House contains several excellent examples of data visualization, from interactive maps to animated number counters. To convey important financial information, however, this Vev-created report uses animated charts, helping the reader stay engaged and understand exactly what the data is showing.
The first animated chart depicts the revenue of Human Rights House. As you scroll down, different sections of the donut chart slot into place to clearly illustrate the percentage of revenue by donor. Below, a second animated chart depicts the allocation of expenses, and the color distinction between the two charts (blue and yellow) helps keep things clear.
It’s also worth highlighting their horizontal bar chart, which depicts the expense distribution per organizational objective for both direct support to partners and HRHF-led initiatives. In another thoughtful scroll-triggered animation, this chart uses strong contrasting colors to visually highlight how each category influenced different Human Rights House plans and processes.
ServiceNow’s “The Sustainability Advantage” infographic uses animated charts to great effect. Designed to educate readers on emerging environmental, social, and governance (ESG) frameworks, this Vev-created infographic underlines how simple, colorful animated charts can communicate a point extremely effectively.
The first animated graph depicts changing levels of trust within the telecommunications, energy, financial services, and tech industries. Each sector has its own distinct color, and as the reader scrolls down the charts come to life, showing that tech is the only sector where trust levels have fallen.
The second animated chart takes the form of a donut chart. As the reader scrolls, portions of the chart change color. The simplicity of this chart animation quickly communicates that most boards are light on experience in ESG management, so readers absorb this important point in a glance.
Mo Ibrahim Foundation
As we’ve already noted, animated charts can be incredibly effective ways of turning complex data into easily digestible content. One of the most pervasive examples of this can be seen in content about COVID-19, where confusing stats about spreading and infection were transformed into intelligible content thanks to innovative data storytelling.
An example of this type of content in action can be seen in the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s research on COVID in Africa. Created in Vev, this data story took a more creative approach with their animated charts: rather than using classic graphs to convey data about vaccines in Africa, the foundation used simple illustrations.
Scrolling down animates two bottle illustrations to them into charts. One bottle is depicted as a quarter full, and the second as almost full. Accompanying text explains what each bottle represents: that Africa accounts for 25% of global vaccine demand, yet imports 99% of its routine vaccine needs.
The gentle animations and illustrative quality of this chart both help draw the reader's attention and keep them engaged, while the huge difference between the two bottle graphs visually underlines the importance of this point.
United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime
The UNODC’s report and strategy on synthetic drugs is another excellent example of a data-led interactive infographic that uses animated charts to convey information. There’s a lot of data and statistics in the report, yet the visual nature and clear visualizations allow the reader to easily digest it all without feeling overwhelmed.
The first animated chart, a column chart depicting the global growth in amphetamine seizures over the past decade, springs into action as you scroll down. The quantities of each column soar in sync with the animated number counters, leaving the reader in no doubt that drug seizures are increasing.
Scrolling further reveals a donut chart on the regional distributions of methamphetamine quantities seized. This animates on scroll to highlight parts of the world where this occurs most, while accompanying text provides more detail. Additional animated column charts depict the prevalence and cost of other synthetic drugs and, when paired with animated number counters, allow the reader to quickly scan key information.
German creative communications agency Rightcolours created this compelling animated video infographic on global air traffic. Video can be a great way to communicate data visualization, but this piece of content also uses animated charts to great effect.
In the first animated chart—a line graph depicting global commercial air travel numbers—we follow the progression of data points as they plot a course to reveal how passenger numbers have steadily increased over the past decade.
Use Animated Charts In Your Own Content
With Vev’s animated chart element, creating engaging data visualizations and reports is easier than ever. Simply upload a CSV, style your chart, and customize your animations—all without writing any code. You can also use our Flourish integration and Embed Anything feature to bring in charts from other data visualization tools.