Design 7 mins read

Faster and Smarter Loading: Skeleton Screens in Digital Products

Streamlining the loading experience with skeleton screens.
Ravin Kumar

Skeleton Screens: An Overview

“Improving User Experience with Skeleton Screens: A Visual Placeholder for Loading Content”

Skeleton screens


In today’s fast-paced world, we expect instant gratification when using digital interfaces. Waiting for a website or app to load can be frustrating and can lead to user abandonment. To address this issue, user interface designers have developed a technique called the “skeleton screen.” The skeleton screens, commonly referred to as “loading placeholders,” are a key component in digital interface design. They may significantly enhance the user experience by giving consumers visual indicators that the requested material is loaded.


Skeleton screens, commonly referred to as “loading placeholders,” are a key component in digital interface design. They may significantly enhance the user experience by giving consumers visual indicators that the requested material is loaded.


The phrase “skeleton screen” was initially used by Luke Wroblewski in a blog post where he suggested that designers utilize visual placeholders rather than spinners, which are often dynamic graphics that rotate about their centers. In particular, he discussed work he had done on a native mobile app called Polar that addressed long loading times that consumers had complained about. Spinners were initially used to show when a web view was loading.


Wroblewski created a fresh new design pattern, the skeleton screen, to reduce attention on the loading process as opposed to the actual content that is loading. They are essentially “a blank version of a page into which content is progressively fed,” in his own words. Wroblewski demonstrated these visual placeholders as being light gray boxes that appeared right away in places where the material was still loading. (Wroblewski demonstrated these visual placeholders as a simplified version of the final interface design that shows the user where the content will eventually appear, while still maintaining the basic layout and structure.)


Skeleton Displays Come in Three Basic Categories


1. Screen with no content

Similar to wireframes, the most common skeleton screen is made out of straightforward, static components. They are often designed in greyscale to mirror the real layout of the page without becoming obtrusive. Even very performant websites like LinkedIn, YouTube, and Slack use classic skeleton screens to lessen the impact of loading delays.

Skeleton displays can be used with real text to show that the text has loaded but the visual data is still downloading.



2. Screen with color placeholders

Color-based placeholders are used by image-based websites like Pinterest and Pixabay while their images load. Color placeholders display the primary color of the image that is still loading in addition to imitating the UI layout, making the page more aesthetically pleasing than it would be in greyscale.


Screen with colour placeholders


Screen with colour placeholders plus images


3. Skeleton animation screen

Skeleton screens apparent loading time can be lowered by adding motion. These animations are typically modest, resembling how readers would read the material by shimmering from left to right. To show progress, some skeleton screens also have pulsating animation or fading in and out.


Skeleton animation screen


How to Use Skeleton Screens?

When to use and when not to use skeleton screens in user interface design


A fantastic technique to keep customers interested in your product is to employ skeleton screens. However, they are not universally effective, and they must be applied carefully. Skeleton screens are frequently used on websites with plenty of material and images, such as lists, cards, and dashboards. You’ll probably need a skeleton screen to prevent user frustration if a web page needs to load numerous images at once or extract data from several sources. The practice of simply displaying what is necessary on the page while the rest of the material loads in the background may even be worth considering if predicted load times are excessively long.


When not to use skeleton screens, it might seem like there are no possible downsides to using skeleton screens — but depending on your audience, they can cause more confusion than clarity. Here are a few examples of when skeleton screens aren’t the right visual cue (and what to use instead):


  • Fast-loading pages: As skeleton screens are most commonly used for slow loading times, there’s no point in your users only seeing them for half a millisecond before the page loads. In this case, you don’t need anything.
  • Video content: Spinners are considered the industry-standard sign for video buffering, so it’s best to stick to the script.
  • Long-running processes: File conversions, uploads/downloads, or data importing should instead use progress bars or text indicators explaining each stage of the process.



Skeleton screens are an important design element that can greatly improve the user experience of a website or app. They provide visual cues to users that content is loading, improve the perceived performance, and reduce cognitive load. (The skeleton screen technique is a powerful tool for improving user experience in digital interfaces. By providing users with a visual indication of progress during content loading, skeleton screens can reduce frustration and increase user engagement. Additionally, because the skeleton screen is less detailed than the final UI design, it requires less data to be transferred, leading to faster load times.)

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