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CSS, JS or SMIL: What Should You Use For Animations?

by Rehana Kumari Tweet - in Website Design

Last updated on January 7th, 2020

Web designers usually have three different tools available at their disposal for creating animations. These tools are CSS, JS or SMIL. But the bigger question here is- which is the one that offers maximum benefits in terms of functionality and near perfect designs? Well, each of these tools have their own set of pros and cons. And that’s why, it makes sense to compare all three in regards to specific web design requirements in order to arrive at a well-informed design decision, every time.

Here is a little smattering on each of these tools along with their pros and cons intended to help web designers understand which amongst these is the best tool for creating animations.

But before we get started with our analysis on these tools, let’s know a little about SVG as we’ll be discussing this term quite often here.

SVG or Scalable Vector Graphics is an XML-based vector image format used for creating two-dimensional graphics. SVG specification is an open standard developed by World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Now, let’s get started.

  1. CSS

Cascading Style Sheets

Cascading Style Sheets make for one of the best options for creating almost any kind of animation. It proves to be a great option when dealing with transformations.  Also, CSS animations on Scalable Vector Graphics work better on mobile devices than their SMIL animation counterparts. But CSS has its own set of limitations, especially when working with SVG. It is not capable of animating all SVG properties. In such cases (where a property cannot be animated using CSS), web designers are left with a little choice but to work on SMIL (Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language) or JS (JavaScript).

  1. SMIL

Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language

SMIL (Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language) is a W3C recommended Extensible Markup Language to describe multimedia presentations. It is responsible for defining markups for almost everything including the layout, visual transitions, animations, timing and media embedding. It allows presenting media items such as text, images, video, audio, links to other SMIL presentations, and files from multiple web servers. SMIL markup is written in XML.


SMIL animations have one main advantage over JavaScript and CSS; they are always preserved whenever SVG is embedded as an image. Here, it is important to implement SVG using <img> tag or as a CSS background image.

SMIL can successfully animate properties that CSS is incapable of doing, such as the existing path data properties. However, SMIL is not supported by any of the Internet Explorer versions and is likely to go extinct soon. In addition, usage of multiple animations on the same SMIL element can become cumbersome at times, especially if they include multiple transformations.

  1. JavaScript    JS Logo design
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JavaScript allows for easy animations if any of the existing SVG animation libraries are effectively incorporated. It even helps designers in better handling of animations allowing them to exercise more control over the easing and timing functions. However, it has a major drawback and that is JS animations too can’t be preserved in situations where SVG is being embedded as an image.

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I am a graphic designer specialized vector moves in design, illustration and design concepts. Experienced in the field of detailed illustrations, and vectors detail. I have been involved in logo design, website design, stationary design, graphic design and many more for about 8 years. Twitter | Google+ | Pinterest



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