There’s no escaping it. Animated gifs are making a huge impact on the web. Why? Because they're perfect for it.
by Paul Compton
I first came across the concept of a gif - a graphics interchange format - back in the late nineties.
I was at University and getting interested in graphic design and animations.
But I found gifs clunky and couldn't find a use for them.
Neither did anyone else it turned out and Flash soon arrived to revolutionise animation.
Until 2015, when gifs made a surprise comeback. They’d evolved into something better. More like a moving meme, or a short clip.
A gif-t for social media
Nothing could fit better with how people are currently using social media. Gifs are short, humorous, and a great way of articulating a point.
They’re more powerful than emojis and easy to source.
In a world where the average attention span has reportedly reduced to eight seconds, gifs entertain with time to spare.
You just have to look at how social media networks are making room for gifs to see how important they are.
They’re now available on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, Tumblr and Reddit.
Striking the right balance
But let’s be honest, gifs aren’t going to solve everything for you. And they could be annoying if overused. But they’re a good addition to your box of comms tricks.
They will liven up a message or a conversation. And could tell a story for you too.
Gifs don’t have to be funny. They can have a serious tone too.
Five ways you can use gifs
Say thanks. But get a cat to do it for you.
Show you’re as relieved as anyone else about something that’s happened. Or even better, get Macca to do it for you
Warn people about something. Perhaps stormy weather is on its way.
Highlight a facepalm moment. The possibilities are endless with this one.
Tell a story. Like this one from Mashable about sharks.
And three times where you shouldn’t
If the subject matter is sensitive, or the conversation doesn't already have a good tone, a gif could backfire.
No one wants to be the embarrassing uncle trying to look cool at a kids' party. Keep it light, but don't try too hard.
Also, be wary of copyright law, but not restricted by it. There's not been a case yet where someone has been prosecuted for using gifs, but that could change. The key legal phrase is 'fair use', which considers how it was made and its purpose.
Sourcing and creating gifs
Making your own will give you huge creative bonus points, but try not to make it look to corporate or contrived. The one reason gifs work so well is they seem natural and, well, clunky.
And with that, I’m out.
Paul Compton is communications team leader for Dorset Councils Partnership.
Picture credit: Internet Archive / Flickr