Skeleton Loading Animation with Vue.js

Although there is some debate as to whether skeleton loading screens actually do enhance the perceived performance or not there seems to be some evidence, that they do work if they are done right. So today we’ll take a look at how we can implement the skeleton loading animation pattern with Vue.js.

The final result of our work: a skeleton loading screen with a shimmer animation

The baseline

Let’s take a look at our example application which we want to improve with a loading animation. As you can see in the following example, we’re loading a list of blog posts, which can take up to a couple of seconds. While the blog posts are loaded, the only thing our users can see is a blank page.

The baseline: a blank page is shown while loading new blog posts

In the following code block you can see the BlogPost component which is responsible for rendering the individual blog posts.

<template>
  <div class="BlogPost o-media">
    <div class="o-media__figure">
      <slot name="figure"/>
    </div>
    <div class="o-media__body">
      <div class="o-vertical-spacing">
        <h3 class="BlogPost__headline">
          <slot name="headline"/>
        </h3>
        <p>
          <slot/>
        </p>
        <div class="BlogPost__meta">
          <slot name="meta"/>
        </div>
      </div>
    </div>
  </div>
</template>

<script>
export default {
  name: 'BlogPost',
};
</script>

<style lang="scss">
.BlogPost {
  &__headline {
    font-size: 1.25em;
    font-weight: bold;
  }

  &__meta {
    font-size: 0.85em;
    color: #6b6b6b;
  }
}
</style>

The skeleton component

At the end of the day the various parts of a skeleton loading screen are just grey boxes and lines. We can build a rather simple Vue.js component which renders grey bars and boxes in various sizes.

<template>
  <span
    :style="{ height, width: computedWidth }"
    class="SkeletonBox"
  />
</template>

<script>
export default {
  name: 'SkeletonBox',
  props: {
    maxWidth: {
      // The default maxiumum width is 100%.
      default: 100,
      type: Number,
    },
    minWidth: {
      // Lines have a minimum width of 80%.
      default: 80,
      type: Number,
    },
    height: {
      // Make lines the same height as text.
      default: '1em',
      type: String,
    },
    width: {
      // Make it possible to define a fixed
      // width instead of using a random one.
      default: null,
      type: String,
    },
  },
  computed: {
    computedWidth() {
      // Either use the given fixed width or
      // a random width between the given min
      // and max values.
      return this.width || `${Math.floor((Math.random() * (this.maxWidth - this.minWidth)) + this.minWidth)}%`;
    },
  },
};
</script>

<style lang="scss">
.SkeletonBox {
  display: inline-block;
  vertical-align: middle;
  background-color: #DDDBDD;
}
</style>

In the code block above, you can see that we make it possible to configure the dimensions of the skeleton component via properties. By default, a skeleton component is as tall as a single line of text and its width is randomly determined between 80 and 100% of its parent container.

Adding a shimmer animation

Most studies conducted to the efficiency of skeleton loading screens, come to the conclusion: moderately slow animations from left to right work best to improve the perceived performance. Let’s update our skeleton component accordingly.

 <style lang="scss">
 .SkeletonBox {
   display: inline-block;
+  position: relative;
+  overflow: hidden;
   vertical-align: middle;
   background-color: #DDDBDD;
+
+  &::after {
+    position: absolute;
+    top: 0;
+    right: 0;
+    bottom: 0;
+    left: 0;
+    transform: translateX(-100%);
+    background-image: linear-gradient(
+      90deg,
+      rgba(#fff, 0) 0,
+      rgba(#fff, 0.2) 20%,
+      rgba(#fff, 0.5) 60%,
+      rgba(#fff, 0)
+    );
+    animation: shimmer 5s infinite;
+    content: '';
+  }
+
+  @keyframes shimmer {
+    100% {
+      transform: translateX(100%);
+    }
+  }
 }
 </style>

Above you can see, that we’ve added a subtle shimmer animation to our SkeletonBox component by using an ::after pseudo element, with a gradient background image, wich we move from left to right.

Combining the blog post and skeleton components

Now we’re ready to use the skeleton component inside of our blog post component to make the time it takes to load the articles appear shorter.

 <template>
   <div class="BlogPost o-media">
     <div class="o-media__figure">
-      <slot name="figure"/>
+      <skeleton-box
+        v-if="loading"
+        width="100px"
+        height="80px"
+      />
+      <slot
+        v-else
+        name="figure"
+      />
     </div>
     <div class="o-media__body">
       <div class="o-vertical-spacing">
         <h3 class="BlogPost__headline">
-          <slot name="headline"/>
+          <skeleton-box
+            v-if="loading"
+            :min-width="50"
+            :max-width="70"
+          />
+          <slot
+            v-else
+            name="headline"
+          />
         </h3>
         <p>
-          <slot/>
+          <template v-if="loading">
+            <skeleton-box/>
+            <skeleton-box/>
+            <skeleton-box/>
+            <skeleton-box/>
+          </template>
+          <slot v-else/>
         </p>
         <div class="BlogPost__meta">
-          <slot name="meta"/>
+          <skeleton-box
+            v-if="loading"
+            width="70px"
+          />
+          <slot
+            v-else
+            name="meta"
+          />
         </div>
       </div>
     </div>
   </div>
 </template>
 
 <script>
+import SkeletonBox from './SkeletonBox.vue';
+
 export default {
   name: 'BlogPost',
+  components: {
+    SkeletonBox,
+  },
+  props: {
+    loading: {
+      default: false,
+      type: Boolean,
+    },
+  },
 };
 </script>

Above you can see the changes necessary to update the BlogPost component to make use of the new SkeletonBox component. Combining the default view and the skeleton view keeps the code DRY and makes it easier to maintain your codebase. But you might not like the idea of loading the skeleton component every time you’re using the BlogPost component. Depending on your use case you should consider to use a separate BlogPostSkeleton component instead.

Using the blog post component

Finally, let’s take a look at how we can use the BlogPost component.

<template>
  <div class="App o-container o-container--s o-vertical-spacing o-vertical-spacing--xl">
    <h1>Skeleton Loading Animation with Vue.js</h1>

    <section class="App__example o-vertical-spacing o-vertical-spacing--l">
      <data-frame>
        <div slot-scope="{ data: blogPosts, error, loading }">
          <p
            v-if="error"
            class="error"
          >
            There was an error! Please try again.
          </p>
          <ul
            v-else
            class="o-vertical-spacing"
          >
            <template v-if="loading">
              <li
                v-for="n in 3"
                :key="n"
              >
                <blog-post loading/>
              </li>
            </template>
            <template v-else>
              <li
                v-for="blogPost in blogPosts"
                :key="blogPost.id"
              >
                <blog-post>
                  <img
                    slot="figure"
                    :src="blogPost.image"
                    alt=""
                  >
                  <template slot="headline">
                    {{ blogPost.title }}
                  </template>
                  {{ blogPost.snippet }}
                  <span slot="meta">
                    {{ blogPost.date }}
                  </span>
                </blog-post>
              </li>
            </template>
          </ul>
        </div>
      </data-frame>
    </section>
  </div>
</template>

<script>
import BlogPost from './components/BlogPost.vue';
import DataFrame from './components/DataFrame';

export default {
  name: 'App',
  components: {
    BlogPost,
    DataFrame,
  },
};
</script>

You can take a look at a live demo of the final result hosted on Netlify and you can checkout the code on GitHub.

Wrapping it up

Oftentimes perceived performance is even more important than real performance. Although your API queries might be very fast (assuming optimal conditions on the users end), a competitor might outperform you in perceived performance because they use techniques for making the load time feel faster.

Skeleton screens are not a panacea to all of your perceived performance needs but there seems to be some evidence, that, if done right, they can work pretty well in certain situations.


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