Interactive Content 101

Animated GIFs: Enhancing Interactive Content Since 1999

Stafford McKay By Stafford McKay July 6, 2014

That dancing baby you loved in the 1990s has matured into something quite sophisticated. Yes, the animated GIF has survived all these years. In our opinion, there are two major reasons why:

  • Steve Jobs killed flash
  • Mobile Safari won’t autoplay video

Here are four ways you can use them to enhance interactive content:

1) Email: Preview Animations

Although email is a very effective way to get your message out, it is limited by what you can do with graphic design. Most email clients do not support CSS or video.

Workaround: Use a small animated GIF that portrays the interactive features of your experience. Hyperlink the GIF to your content in a browser, hosted in the cloud. We recently took this approach with an email campaign, where we announced the publication of a World Cup Guide by a member of our design community. It worked! We had a staggering 35% Click Through Rate.


Note that Outlook does not support animated GIFs, but the client will show a static image of the animation’s first frame.

2) Mobile: Preview a Video

It is not best practice for a video to autoplay in a mobile experience. There are good reasons for this. Videos take up expensive wireless bandwidth, are impossible (or really slow) to play when coverage is weak, and lower-end smart phones cannot handle them well.

Workaround: Use an animated GIF as a poster image that can be used in place of video. The GIF will delight viewers and entice them to tap and start the video.

3) As a Background Image

Full sized background images are all the rage at the moment. Videos, even more so. But if your background is purely aesthetic, re-consider uploading a large video file in favor of…. guess what? An animated GIF. Don’t underestimate the power of a subtle loop. It can be powerful when done correctly, like in this Kenneth Cole campaign.


4) As an Attention Seeking Button

Try using an animated GIF as a way to draw attention to a button in an interactive brochure.

We’re not advocating anything outrageous (unless that’s your thing). Just a subtlety – like drawing the reader to click a headlight in an automobile brochure by making it blink. Or make the laces on a pair of running shoes unravel, enticing the content consumer to click.


If you haven’t already, stop categorizing animated GIFs as eyesores. Think of them as a way to enhance quality content while providing economy in size and multiplatform compatibility.

Although they are almost universally accepted in their new form as the comeback kid, just remember, there is still one place that considers them persona non-grata: Facebook. See this story on Mashable for more.

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