Practical uses of animated GIFs in web design

What comes to mind when you hear "animated GIF"? Do you think back to the days when animated clip art ruled on websites hosted on Geocities and MySpace? Do you associate the term with Tumblr or Buzzfeed, where animated GIFs pop up on a daily basis? (If all you're thinking is "what's a GIF?" then check out this short Animated GIF documentary.)

Regardless of your familiarity, what you may not realize is that animated GIFs can be valuable tools for anything from design mock-ups to email marketing pitches.

Here are some helpful examples of how to effectively put animated GIFs to use:

Interactive mock-ups

Presenting mock-ups for a website, mobile app, and other web-based products can be a challenging process. Many designers provide static images to clients in order to show overall design, but portraying interactivity using static images is nearly impossible. Some designers use animated GIFs to solve this mock-up problem. These examples show how comps with animation improve comprehensive:

  

By providing an animated GIF instead of a static image, designers can portray how websites and apps will function once complete and how users can use them. Using animated GIFs can be a great deal more effective, especially for people who need to see how something works in order to understand it.

Alternative to CSS3 animations or videos

While CSS3 can be used to provide animation on websites, if you need to support older browsers, it might not be your best option. Animated GIFs are a useful alternative because even older browsers support them. In some cases animated GIFs can be used in place of video as well, especially when a more lightweight option is needed. For example, take a look at the Giant Ant site. When you hover over the icons on the home page, they turn into short animations. The creators of this site opted to use animated GIFs instead of using a video to achieve this effect.

The Giant Ant homepage uses animated GIFs for icons.

Animated GIFs also make a great alternative to video and coding solutions because of how easy they are to create. If you have Adobe Photoshop, you can create one without any extra software required. They don't require any coding experience and can be used as easily as any other image file type.

User engagement

Animated GIFs can help make a website more engaging for users. They can be used to make certain areas of your website stand out, and showcase your content in new and exciting ways. Even just adding a touch of life to photos can get a user's attention better than a static image. Using animation adds a sense of interactivity to your content and can have a bigger impact on users.

Email marketing

Email marketing is another area in which animated GIFs are used in creative ways. It's hard to capture the attention of email recipients with all of the clutter in inboxes these days, but incorporating animation in your messaging is a great way for businesses to stand out. Developing creative content for HTML emails can be challenging when working with such a limiting medium, but animated GIFs open up new opportunities for showcasing products and services. Take a look at some examples of animated GIFs in emails to see how companies are utilizing this technique.

Want more? Check out some creative uses of animated GIFs on the web in our animated GIFs and SVGs showcase.

Kayleigh

About the author | Kayleigh Circle

Kayleigh is a web developer at TBH Creative, specializing in front-end development and responsive design. She likes to blog about a variety of web design topics, including design tips, the latest trends in the industry, and how to make your website more successful.

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