Animated GIFs. For years these were the bane of many email designers and programmers existence. In fact when I worked for the Chicago Tribune in 2008, animated GIFs were prohibited for any of our email campaigns. Recently, however, the GIF has made a comeback. Whether it's in commercials such as K-Mart's "GIFFING Out" campaign, or going viral through social media outlets (think Michelle Obama's eye roll), animated GIFs are seeing a renaissance. So it's no surprise that animated GIF's are popping up more frequently in email campaigns. And when done right, they're actually a pretty effective design component.
GIFFing out in email
I recently received an email from MyEmma that I think is a great example of using animated GIFs. In the below email example, MyEmma incorporates 2 animated GIFs into the design. The first GIF is a quick call to action about MyEmma's upcoming webinar. In this instance the animation is used to drive home the point of the 8 second email challenge. The animation is quick, clean and adds more interest to the email. The second GIF is a more subtle animation, with shopping tags dangling from left to right. This animation is used as a subtle reference to MyEmma's new Shopify feature. Both animated GIFs are great examples of how appropriate use of animation can add interest and depth to your email campaign.
How to use animated GIFs effectively
When used correctly, animated GIFs are a great way to help tell the story in your marketing communications. Here's what to keep in mind when developing GIFs for email creative.
1.) Does it offer value?
As with any design element, ask yourself if having an animation will bring value to your communication. The important thing for any marketing communication is that all the elements work to engage the audience not distract them. Avoid having a GIF for the sake of having a GIF. Be intentional with any animation implementation.
2.) Watch your file size.
You want the overall file size of your email to be around 100kb. This helps the download time of the email for your audience. Elaborate GIF animations can become pretty heavy on file size and slow download times. Try to keep animated GIF's to around 40kb when possible, especially if you have other images in your email.
3.) Be up front.
Not all email clients support animated GIFs. For example, Outlook 2007-2013 shows only the first frame of the GIF when it is loaded. Be sure to have all pertinent information for your GIF on the first frame of your animation, so that all users have a similar experience.
4.) Keep it short.
According to a recent survey by Movable Ink, most consumers spend less than 15 seconds reading an email. In order for animated GIFs with messaging to be effective, keep their run time down to about 10 seconds. This will also help in maintaining a small file size.
5.) Know your audience.
As stated previously, not every email client supports animated GIFs. It is important to know which email clients your audience is using to view email. If the majority of your audience is using Outlook, it's probably not a good idea to incorporate one. Check out this list of email clients that support animated GIFs.
Animated GIFs are a great way to draw attention to your email, as well as help tell the story to your audience. Just remember not to GIF out to much, or your email stream might be viewed as more of a nuisance than innovative. For more information and examples about animated GIFs, review these aritcles:
Litmus: A guide to creating animated GIFs for email
Campaign Monitor: Animated GIFs in email: A new approach to an old format