Why GIFs are better than video

I check my personal email frequently throughout the day. Yes, big admission, I know. Not really. Most of the time I do this, however, is through the Mailbox app on my iPhone. Why do I feel it’s okay to do this? Because I just swipe-delay my messages until that evening. It cleans up my Inbox and brings back all the important messages that evening when I have more time to go through the messages.

But all that info is definitely not why you’re reading this. It’s to know why an almost 20-year-old feature of the web — the .gif — is better than video, in my mind, in one particular case. *Note: there are probably many reasons why the .gif is better than video for many cases. I believe this is just one such case that came to mind and I was non-sober enough to write about.

Used poorly, the .gif reminds many of the days of GeoCities:

But used correctly, GIFs can look like this:

This was in an email I got from The White House, and the .gif grabbed my attention more than anything else in the email.

If this was communicated through video, here’s what I would need to do to get the info.

  1. Click the thumbnail in the email.
  2. Browser opens if not open already.
  3. New window/tab loads in browser.
  4. Click video to play.
  5. Wait 30 seconds for ad or loading.
  6. Video plays.
  7. Finally get information I clicked on, almost 2 minutes after getting the email.

What do I need to do with the .gif? Open the email. It just works.
*Note: .gifs don’t work in every email client. Here’s a great chart from Campaign Monitor of who supports animated .gifs.

So, if you’re looking to use the versatile .gif in an upcoming email campaign, here’s what you should remember:

  1. Keep it concise and clear. The White House communicated one thing and one thing only through the above .gif.
  2. Keep file size smaller. Since this is loading when the email opens, a large .gif will take time to load.
  3. Know your audience. Use the above chart and your email analytics to make sure that your audience will be able to see your crazy, awesome, .gif magic.
  4. And remember, don’t blind your reader with flashing neon, construction signs, or dancing babies.

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