6 Best Practices for Making User-Friendly Motion Graphics Templates
by Theresa Rostek
posted on 05-08-2020
Motion Graphics Templates combine amazing motion design, the creative power of After Effects, and efficient user experience in one package, right inside of Premiere Pro. At their heart, Motion Graphics Templates (MoGRTS) are a straightforward way for any user to create beautiful motion graphics for their projects. MoGRT designers can ensure a good user experience by standardizing controls, using hierarchies, and adding guardrails to the Essential Graphics Panel outlined in the following best practices. Open After Effects and select the Essential Graphics workspace to get started.
1. Guardrails are great
Guardrails guarantee that design aesthetics are preserved, MoGRT performance is optimal, and users are empowered to make strong design choices. In the Essential Graphics Panel (EGP), where all MoGRT customizations are made, each control should be vital to the MoGRT; include only what is necessary to the template’s purpose and visual style. It may seem as though it liberates the user if every control available is added into the EGP, yet these intense calculations will impede a MoGRT’s refresh rate, increase render times, hinder the user’s decision-making ability, and cause frustration. As the MoGRT designer, make the best design choices for the user! For example, instead of including every Fractal Noise control in the EGP, create multiple background comps, then render and replace to make these background options available. This will improve MoGRT performance and ensure well-designed graphics.
Elements should be displayed where they’re meant to be located – text within title safety; lower thirds in the lower half of the screen; etc. Be sure to set both the text justification and the anchor point accordingly. It would be cumbersome for the user to have to reposition an element because they changed its size or alignment.
Text with correct anchor points do not need to be repositioned when the text size is changed.
Use global controls to consolidate like controls. For example, if the MoGRT is designed with three complementary colors, consider using only three-color controls in the EGP. This retains the design aesthetic and minimizes redundancies.
Left: Extensive EGP with 7 color controls across 3 groups | Right: Consolidated EGP with 3 color controls.
2. Use the right controls
Choosing the right controls makes for an easy-to-navigate EGP. In previous versions of MoGRTS, Slider Controls were the primary control type. A wider array of controls is now supported in Premiere Pro and After Effects 2020. Here’s what each is best for:
Angle — Any radial item, such as rotation.
Checkbox — On/off states.
Color — Linking several colors to a singular control, such as global text colors.
Drop Down Menu — Choices that require descriptions, such as animation direction and style.
Slider — For minimum and maximum values, such as opacity.
- Be sure to Edit Range to set constraints.
Point — For unlinked x/y values.
Source Text — For text inptuts
Use generic text with long text strings to account for longer names with appropriate paragraph alignment so text retypes correctly.
It’s ideal to add a line spacing control since Premiere Pro 14 allows for multiple lines of text on all text inputs.
Consider enabling Font Properties (font substitution, font size adjustment, and faux styles) if this aligns with the needs of the MoGRT. Be aware that text with the font size adjustment enabled can benefit from using
Expressions Control types as seen from the user perspective in Premiere Pro.
Use a layer’s native transform properties instead of Expressions Controls when possible to limit CPU calculations. Unnecessary expressions will negatively impact a MoGRT’s playback and render times. Be aware that not all transform properties are available for use in the EGP, and they do not have constrained values.
3. Be meaningful in control names
Controls and parameters in the Essential Graphics Panel should be given clear, instructive names so that no comments or extra instructions outside of the template itself are needed. Name controls descriptively according to which element(s) they control, control type, or screen position, (eg. “Main Title” or “Left Rectangle Size”). Avoid naming controls with variable elements (eg. “Yellow Outline”), since once the control is changed, the control name is no longer meaningful.
Example of control names that will lose meaning once the colors are changed.
Technical terms like “scale,” “fill,” “stroke,” or “seed” can be confusing for a novice. Use more familiar terms like “size,” “color,” “outline,” and “randomize” to connect with all users.
Comments can be a great way to communicate to users how a control works. However, if comments are used excessively to explain controls, investigate if the control itself is necessary or if it’s the right control type. A descriptive name is often enough for a single control. Comments should be used sparingly.
4. Create families with groups
Groups and sub-groups give structure and set up user expectations within the EGP. Grouping according to relationship instead of category allows a user to change a single element on screen instead of sifting through several groups. The text is often the most important part of the MoGRT, so the EGP can be comfortably split into two main groups: Text Controls and Background Controls (everything behind the text). Each group may contain sub-groups for each text input, along with finer controls. Other groups may be important to use depending on the MoGRT’s design.
Groups with granular sub-groups.
Close any groups and sub-groups before export so the user is not overwhelmed by options when first editing the MoGRT.
5. Structure layers according to importance
Hierarchy highlights the most important control to use first, allowing a user to quickly flip through design options before fine-tuning. Place the most significant visual style at the top of the layer stack. As a user works downwards through the EGP, they should be refining the design choices previously made. An important control at the bottom of the EGP can invalidate previous design choices and confuse users.
Set standards for layering consistency. For example, once setting text position controls below a text input, be sure to do this for every text position control for that MoGRT.
6. Test the MoGRT
Testing a MoGRT in Premiere Pro will provide a first-hand preview of the user experience and uncover any performance issues as well as broken or redundant controls. Play a MoGRT multiple times through to allow it to cache and evaluate its playback performance. If playback is stuttering and slow, consider removing heavier effects and intense expressions to optimize. When testing in Premiere Pro, be sure to adjust every control to push the MoGRT to its breaking point, retype all text with longer text strings, and resize text to see if the template’s integrity is upheld. Head back to After Effects to revise any errors.
Now go out and make user-friendly MoGRTS!
By following these pest practices, MoGRTS designers can ensure an excellent user experience and enable users to quickly and effortlessly customize a MoGRT.
Want to see best practices in action? Check out Adobe Stock’s MoGRT collection!
Topics: Creativity, Video & Audio
Products: Stock, After Effects, Premiere Pro, Creative Cloud