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Designing an Effective Splash Screen: Best Practices, Tips and Examples

The splash screen is an element that one can easily overlook as it lasts for less than 3 seconds when a user launches an application. It interacts with the user before the system, or app loads all their data. And this is exactly what makes it an important part of the UX: it plays the role of an entrance and sets the tone for the entire app. In this article, we will dive deeper into that short introductory screen and its power to ensure a positive experience for the user. We’ll look at what is a splash screen, why is it important and what are the best practices for designing one. Along with some great tips to keep you a step ahead.

How to Design an Effective Splash Screen: Overview

What is a Splash Screen?

Also known as the launch screen, this is the introduction screen that appears for a couple of seconds when users launch an application, website, or any other digital experience. Such screens usually feature the brand logo and name and background with specific colors or images that belong to the brand.

So, how does it work?

In mobile, when users launch the app during the time when the app’s process is not running, the system shows the splash screen. Respectively, when the app is ready, the app dismisses the splash screen and launches.

Since this fleeting moment screen appearance is the user’s very first experience with the app, its main purpose is to build brand awareness, perception and to make a great first impression.

Why are Splash Screens Important?

It’s easy to overlook a screen that will appear for a couple of seconds. All it does is show the logo and some brand elements, right? Well, not entirely. Although the splash screen appears to interact with the user before the system, or app loads all their data, it sets the tone for the entire experience of the app. Whether it welcomes the user, asks for log-in details, or simply shows a loading brand animation, it plays the role of the grand entrance to the app. As such it provides the user with something to do before directing them to a functional screen.

In short, the splash screen can:

  1. Serve as an introduction to the app to set the tone while the entire app loads all the necessary data.
  2. Helps build brand perception and identity.
  3. Keeps the user occupied for the time the app executes background tasks.
  4. It could also show the user loading progress to reduce their anxiety and, therefore, app abandonment.

With all of this in mind, designing an effective splash screen is a responsible task that only looks easy on the surface. If you get your splash screen right, however, your users will have a great first experience with your app that they will instantly start associating with your brand. Let’s see how to make these few seconds of their time worth experiencing.

Foodpanda  Welcome Animation by Faizan Atiq


7 Best Practices for Creating an Effective Splash Screen

The first thing to take into consideration before designing the splash screen is the time limit.

  • The splash screen should be very quick, up to 3 seconds.
  • If you expect users to use your app regularly (several times a day), ideally your splash screen should last up to 1 second.

Depending on the app type, in cases where you can’t make your app load in 3 seconds, you have two good options. For apps with a feed that takes longer to load, consider using a skeleton screen instead.

🦴 The skeleton screen, also known as a skeleton loader, plays the role of a placeholder for any content that is still loading. It mimics the look of the content with neutral-tone placeholders that are later replaced with the actual content. For example, YouTube, Facebook, GoogleDrive, and LinkedIn use skeleton loaders instead of splash screens.

If the skeleton screen isn’t appropriate for your type of app, you can offer users some light entertainment to engage them with.

1. Entertain users if your app takes longer to load

It might be a small game or an interactive animation for your users to click on while waiting a few seconds longer.

AR glasses by Gleb Kuznetsov

2. Keep the design simple

For up to 3 seconds, your users won’t have enough time to comprehend a complex design, or to read text, so the trick here is to strike them fast with a simple but bold introduction screen. You can accomplish that with trendy colors, gradients, quick and simple animation for the logo, or another visual element.

Sign in animation by Jakub Kośla

3. Show the current state of the system

A recognizable loading animation reduces anxiety as it lets users know how long they need to wait.

Pro Tip: Use progress bars rather than spinners. When users have to wait for the app to load, they will be more relaxed to know the exact progress of the loading process. This is better indicated with a progress bar. In comparison, if the app needs more time to load (weak wi-fi connection) spinners would seem to be spinning forever and will frustrate the users.

Animation by Jeremie Ruest

4. Keep it visual

The best way to capture your user’s attention is through interesting simple animations. There are endless possibilities when it comes to splash screens. For example, if your logo consists of letters (or you wish to include a short brand message), you can make things more interactive by animating the letters.

Laundry by Juliana Custódio

5. But not too visual

Aside from long or complex animations, it’s a good practice to avoid autoplay videos. Most users don’t like them, especially ones with a sound, so if you need to use a video for your splash screen, include a play-button option.

6. No advertising

Speaking of making a great first impression of a credible company, advertising is a big no. Commercials usually give users a negative impression and will make it hard for them to trust your brand.

7. Avoid multiple screens

In cases where the users have a bad internet connection and will have to look at the splash screen for a little bit longer, it’s a better practice to provide them with just one screen to look at. Multiple screens will create the notion that the loading process will never end and instead of engaging them, it will frustrate them further.


7 Tips for Great Splash Screen Design

To continue with the practices, here are some common tips to get your splash screen a step ahead.

1. Go flashy only for first-timers

If you really want to impress users with a creative longer and more complex flashy animation that will blow their minds, of course, you can go wild, but only for the first time, they open the app. For subsequent opens, use a simpler version of the screen.

Virtual Wardrobe | First Shot by Baljeet Singh

2. Use a Basic Solid Background Color for Animations

Strong images, contrasting colorful gradients, or even strong flashy colors on the background can take the spotlight away from your animation. Instead, allow your animation to steal the attention by helping it with a background with a basic solid color or simple gradient of the same color.

Flight Booking by Yup Nguyen

3. Load only the essential data

To reduce splash screen time, load only the total minimum and essential data from the server needed to show the next screen.

4. Integrate errors

Most errors in an app are handled with popups, however, this will look very bad on a splash screen and will simply add to the bad experience. You can take care of the main critical errors that may occur during the splash screen by instantly loading the next screen. In cases where the internet connection is down and the user can’t continue using the app, try integrating the error messages on the splash screen itself.

5. Make an extended version

It’s also great to have an extended splash screen that stays consistent with the original one. This gives an impression of professionalism while the user needs to wait for the app to download additional data.

6. Design consistency

It’s always better if the splash screen is an obvious part of the entire app design and not separated. If your entire app is minimalistic or uses a black and white scheme, so should your splash screen.

SNKRS Launch by James DeBrock

7. Communicate your brand with an image

The splash screen is the perfect occasion to use an image that shows how awesome your services are. Visuals do that much better than motos. For example, if you create an app for a pizza restaurant, a high-quality photo of a delicious pizza with melted cheese looks way more promising than any slogan.

Design  by Walkpryce


In Conclusion

Splash screens are that the first thing your users will see when they launch your app and this brings a great opportunity to make a great first impression under 3 seconds. By knowing the best practices and unleashing your creativity you can use it as a powerful tool for building brand awareness.

In the meantime, why not check for more related insights on web development and web design?

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