Every so often we realize that an old technology can be effective in a new setting. In our last digital insight we looked at email-to-text, and this time we’ll look at how one of the worst design features of the early web has become a truly compelling tool for engaging emails and content marketing. I’m speaking about animated GIFs.
Remember seeing images like this on websites?
In the late 90s and early 00s, this technique was gratuitously used to provide pointless animation to logos, stock icons, and more. The #1 rule of the web is that if content doesn’t serve a purpose, it will distract your visitors and lower conversion rates.
But now, we are seeing a powerful set of new applications for this ancient (by web standards) technology, primarily with most email clients now supporting animated GIFs.
* The exceptions are Outlook 2007-2013 and Windows Phone 7.
3 Powerful Uses for Animated GIFs
1. Showing vs. Telling for New Features
In this example, MailChimp does a great job of showing how easy it is to edit lists and add new subscribers in their new layout.
2. Show multiple product options
In this example from art.com, they do a great example of showing different paintings that are available and allowing their readers to imagine all the different possibilities for making their living room more beautiful.
3. Show a Video Snippet
One of the biggest frustrations for email marketers for years has been the inability to put video inside of an email. This a great example of how you can create the illusion of video from just a few still shots and convey a concept that requires video.
BONUS: Infographics that Move
You have to see the whole image to appreciate how cool this. This entire infographic is an animated GIF with multiple moving sections, which makes it far more visually engaging than just a static image. Equally important, because it is a GIF it can be shared on social media and directly in emails while retaining its motion. Modern interactivity tools such as those we used in our new website give greater control, but for a piece designed to go viral they lack the ability to be easily shared.