There's no doubt that transitions and animations are a powerful part of the User Experience (UX) designer's toolset. The right transition, at the right speed, can create a natural, organic interaction that leaves the user feeling very comfortable with your application's interface. Of course, not all transitions are positive - we've all seen the travesty that is the "animated drop-down menu." But, whether you love a transition, or you hate a transition, we must remember one truly critical fact: Transitions do not solve business problems.
We User Experience (UX) designers like to make things beautiful. And, often times, a very usable interface is also a very beautiful one. But, our primary job is to help businesses solve problems. Whether that means higher conversion rates or simply making employees more effective, the concerns of the business must always remain our primary motivators - our guiding lights.
For the first decade of web development, this was a de facto truth. After all, we didn't really have transitions to work with - we had the standard request/response lifecycle. But, with the advent of AJAX, jQuery, MooTools, YUI, CSS3, and single-page applications (SPAs), the landscape of web development has changed considerably. Fortunately, most of us are learning to leverage these technologies to our client's benefit.
The new "Mobile" age, however, concerns me. Developing for Mobile is a paradigm shift; one so large, in fact, that I'm afraid we may lose sight of what's most important: solving business problems. Now, I'm not saying that we can't successfully adapt to the new medium; but, I am very cautious when I hear my fellow User Experience designers say things like:
With mobile apps, transitions are so important that [Tool XYZ] is critical - it's the only one that can do sophisticated transitions with minimal effort.
Transitions are powerful. And an application with appropriate transitions can be more effective than one without transitions. That said, I don't think that transitions should ever be heralded as critical for the success of an application; if they are, I think it may be a red flag that we need to step back and simply double-check our priorities.
As a User Experience designer, I solve business problems, for my clients, by finding the signal in the noise. I hold the belief that Low-Fidelity is the new High-Fidelity. And, I just hope that as I move into the new Mobile age, I will be able to keep my priorities straight; yet, at the same time, keep my mind open and ready to evolve.