As an email coder and designer, I’m often asked to insert a movie or some other animation to make the email more interesting. However, unlike web design, emails are still very much stuck in the last decade; they’re still table based.
Animated GIFs used to be the go-to way of adding animation; but like all good things it became overused. Slowly, animation disappeared from emails until it wasn’t used anymore. In fact, it was considered tacky to have animation. There has been a resurgence of animation of late and GIFs are, again, the way to make it happen. Uber used animation in their Fourth of July email to great effect:
No doubt, animated GIFs can add humor and interest to your email; but they can also help guide customers when it comes to logging in or changing profile settings. This one from MailChimp is a great example:
The visual cues of an animated GIF can help clarify even the most complex instructions. Making it easier on the customer and reducing or, dare I say eliminating, customer service calls or chats for help.
However, as great as they are not all email clients support animated GIFs. The worst offender is Outlook, which actually uses Microsoft Word to display its emails after being forced to separate Internet Explorer from Microsoft Office. With Outlook you’ll only get a static picture; the first frame of the animation. Most consumers don’t use Outlook outside of the office; however, a lot of people do use their work email addresses for subscriptions and most businesses still use Outlook. So, when planning a GIF for your advertising you should make sure that the first frame can stand on its own.
Another problem is file size. Animated GIFs can be slow to load and play and according to MovableInk 66% of all emails in the US are now opened or read on smartphones or tablets and 34% are viewed on a desktop. Therefore, slow loading emails on a phone or tablet, when your customer is using WiFi, 3G or 4G, could not only eat up their data plan, but could also upset them possibly causing unsubscribes. Or worse, report you as SPAM.
In the end, it appears that animation in emails is in the same place it was a decade ago — Use it sparingly, be careful of file size, and make it count!