Adding motion to your email with GIFs
Animated GIFs can be a great, accessible alternative to video, if you're looking to give your emails some extra spice.
, Email Designer, Litmus
"Without a doubt, animated GIFs are the most widely supported option for motion in email.There are some other products or extensions out there that can get HTML5 video to work, but its support is marginal at best at this moment."
The one thing to remember is that file size matters. GIFs won't animate in an email until all of the frames are loaded, so larger file sizes can create a subpar experience. If you're lucky, an oversized GIF might pause on the first frame. Conversely, it could appear completely blank. As a rule of thumb, email GIFs should be under 125K. For further reading, Litmus has a great blog post on using animated GIFs in email.
Animated GIF (looping single shot)
One of my favorite emails from this year came from Airbnb. If you've visited their homepage recently, you've seen their alluring background videos. Many of them start out quite still, and then surprise you with barely detectable motion.
An email this past summer featured the following video GIF, which aligned with the style of their website's subtle, scenic videos.
Since less than 10% of the frame is in motion, the GIF almost presents itself as a still shot with a fun surprise. I think I actually smiled when I noticed the tiny bubbles. Maybe I'm just a sucker for happy, bouncing children, but I was impressed by Airbnb's execution on this email design, and I definitely clicked the call to action.
, Email Marketing Coordinator, Airbnb
"We were amazed about the videos on our homepage and wanted to bring one into our emails. With the launch of the new homepage, it was the right time to do it. We did it to surprise and delight our travelers directly in their inboxes. An animated GIF was the easiest way to do it, we selected the sequence and then sliced it to the minimum frame to make it fit in our email."
Animated GIF (multiple shots)
Animated GIFs have been around for a while, but like crazy straws, they haven't lost their appeal, so we decided to experiment with one in our own email this year.
For this particular email, our goal was to encourage our audience to watch a video and read a post about DIY techniques for making your first video. We decided to include this animated GIF in the email to set an energizing, playful tone, and to suggest at the existence of a fun video (with sweet high-fives).
, Lead Email Designer & UX Designer, MailChimp
"Like Wistia, I'm a proponent of relying on GIFs to provide motion in email. While HTML video in email can be immensely powerful, it more often than not lacks in providing a net benefit over GIF-based approaches. Part of the reason is the lack of strong client support, but the stronger argument against the method, I think, is the cost incurred on mobile subscribers; for the biggest mobile carriers like Verizon and AT&T, the days of unlimited data are long gone, having been replaced by restrictive, low-cap plans.
Any way you slice it, video incurs a file size cost that's higher than many GIFs. That means, when you send an email to your subscribers that includes HTML video, you can literally cost them money if they're near or beyond their monthly cap.
For simple motion, the use of CSS3 animation is the better option, particularly because of low file size impact and wider support than HTML video. For more complex motion, GIFs are still king in the world of email."
You'll notice that the image quality isn't optimal in the GIF we used, and of course, there's no sound. When compared with our other blog-related emails this year, the percentage of readers who clicked to open the video GIF email (18.98%) was just about average.
Obviously, there are many factors that influence a reader's decision to open an email, but this departure from our typical still image with a link to a video didn't appear to make many waves. Maybe some small ripples, at best, but we hope it at least made this email a bit more delightful!