The Pros and Cons of Using GIFs in Your Business

by Federica Rustico

12 min read
Last Updated: May 26, 2023

Technically speaking, GIFs are merely moving pictures. But everyone knows there's more to them than just pretty animated images. Along with memes, GIFs have become a popular means by which today's younger generations communicate their sense of humor through short video snippets. From reactions to greetings, consumers love GIFs and businesses are understanding the power that comes with their use. But still, a few haters couldn’t be missing from the party. There are actually a lot of people who dislike GIFs (crazy, I know). They claim they were cute at the beginning but they're just irritated by them. Like the Romans used to say, de gustibus. So today, you'll learn a little about the pros and cons of GIFs, as well as some interesting anecdotes! 

Types of GIFs

Ok so first things first. You know that GIFs are moving images, but you’d be surprised by how many different types of GIFs there are. Which is exactly why it’s important to learn the differences between them so that you can use them effectively in your business. Let me go over some of the most popular types of GIFs out there: 

1. Reaction

You’re surely familiar with the queen of GIFs. They’re probably the ones your Whatsapp chats are exploding with! Users are able to express feelings through these GIFs that simply cannot be conveyed through words alone. 

No Way Goodbye GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

2. Technical

Infographics, charts and graphs are definitely not the best way to spice up a conversation. Let’s be honest, statistics aren’t exactly the most engaging type of visuals to look at. But have you ever tried representing numbers with GIFs? They offer a great way to illustrate numbers in a fun way. Not only are they better to look at than traditional graphs, they also offer a great visual aid for whoever is reading on!

Data Analyze GIF by Socialbakers - Find & Share on GIPHY

3. Replay

To optimize the use of GIFs, the NFL and NBA use high-volume short videos to replay game highlights and broadcast them on their social media sites. That's why it's great to have Replay GIFs at your disposal. They highlight the most important parts of a film, game, or television show.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers GIF by NFL - Find & Share on GIPHY

4. Perfect-Loop

As opposed to a linear progression, a loop doesn't end. GIFs are set up so that the clip appears to loop endlessly by returning to the beginning. To put it plainly, this is how Perfect-Loop GIFs function. Some looped GIFs show an unfinished plot, and it may take viewers several seconds or minutes to realize that the clip is continuously playing. This is great news for advertisers, as it will keep potential buyers on the page for longer. You’re welcome.

Perfect Loop GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

In what ways might GIFs be used for?

Now that you know what GIFs are and how they differ from one another, we'll go over the many contexts in which you could encounter them. Don’t be surprised to hear that GIFs can be used for more than just laughs. Since they have persisted on the web for over twenty years, it’s accurate to say that some businesses have figured out how to profit from them.

1. Focusing on feelings

Even if you're rolling on the floor, dying of laughter, a mere LOL won't convey the depth of your feelings. The greatest way to visualize and explain how funny something is is to see an animated clip of a man rolling on the floor while laughing. Agreed? So whatever your feeling, know that you can go on any GIF search engine like Giphy and find countless GIFs that perfectly capture your present mood.

2. Marketing

While still images might be captivating, moving ones are exponentially more so. Showing off a short clip of your products in action can also pique people's interest in the product and increase sales.

3. Visualization

Because of the evolution of GIFs, they are now being used to quickly describe charts and infographics. Users can gain a deeper understanding of complex concepts by viewing them in a visual format. GIFs can be used to create instructional guides that show users step-by-step what they should do to complete a given task.

4. Engagement on Social Media

Consider using animated GIFs as responses in addition to regular responses to comments and inquiries from customers to forge a closer, more personal connection with them. Your product advertising on social media platforms will benefit from this, trust me!

Benefits and disadvantages of using GIFs

GIFs, short for "Graphics Interchange Format," have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years as a means to inject some visual flair into online ads. They have several potential applications, including but not limited to use in online marketing campaigns, website copy, and social media posts. Of course, as with every resource, they come with benefits and drawbacks. To help you decide if GIFs are the correct choice for your business, we'll go through the benefits and drawbacks of employing them in your marketing strategy. Everything from positive effects on engagement and traffic to potential drawbacks like slowed page load times will be discussed. If used properly, GIFs have the potential to significantly boost marketing efforts. But let’s get the party started by considering both the benefits and drawbacks listed below. 

Pros of using GIFS

Let's take a look at the upsides of using animated GIFs to attract people's attention online!

1. Excellent workmanship and minimal footprint

The main benefit of using GIFs is the space they may save without sacrificing image quality. Since GIFs are compressed into such tiny sizes, they may be uploaded quickly without losing any quality. What's more, its excellent resolution allows for a transparent background, which is useful if the user is considering using animation over a non-white background on his website. Last but not least, the time you'd normally spend waiting for photographs to load online is no longer wasted thanks to this tool.

2. Simplicity to make

Above all the roles GIFs can provide you, you are free to be the next trendy meme face or a professional meme maker yourself. These moving pictures can be created with little effort because of a number of websites on the web.

3. Expressive

With a GIF, you may convey feelings that are difficult, if not impossible, to convey with just words or pictures. It can present any idea you have in a way that is better, more spectacular, and more genuine than you could have imagined before. It has the ability to convey motion and feeling that still pictures don't. It's the best way to create animated tutorials, and it will make learning lot simpler for everyone. If you want to teach a child something, using GIFs might get their attention and make them love learning even more.

Happy Lets Go GIF by The Drew Barrymore Show - Find & Share on GIPHY

4. Maximize the impact of your social media profiles

Mild online comedy is something that could do us all some good. While Instagram is great for capturing short videos, users can quickly add humorous GIFs to Facebook comment threads and Twitter profile images. Any silly interactions are welcome. When used appropriately, it can add levity and fun to an otherwise dull social media feed or text discussion. Since the internet lacks sarcastic punctuation, GIFS are the next best thing.

6. Stylish

Using GIFs is a great way to spice up a website's visual appeal. Many sites today make use of animated GIFs in their page layouts as a means of conveying their brand's identity and connecting with their intended audience. However, this benefit is conditional on how the GIFs will be used on the website. Use of appropriate GIFs and their precise placement is crucial. Some viewers may find the abundance of GIFs annoying. In addition, you can make a color translucent in a short GIF by using a feature called single-bit transparency. With the animations playing out against a non-white backdrop, your website will have a more polished and elaborate appearance.

Style Hair Flip GIF by Ariana Grande - Find & Share on GIPHY

7. Compatibility

The fact that GIFs can be viewed in any browser is among its many advantages. It's a convenient way for people to watch GIFs in a wide variety of online and mobile settings. It fosters ease in whatever area where they are used, whether it be in sharing a hilariously on-point meme with a pal or promoting a new social media campaign in an online group.

8. No need for extra plugins

Flash animations can only be viewed with the aid of additional software. However, most GIFs don't necessitate this because websites already identify GIFs as ordinary images.

Cons of Using GIFs

Everything has flaws, and GIFs are no exception. Possible downsides of using GIFs are shown below.

1. Editing is difficult

A GIF cannot be edited in any way. When you discover the animation is hard-coded into the file, you can no longer make changes to it. You know what that means? You should proceed with caution when creating your GIFs. Plan thoroughly before putting your designs into action. If you make a mistake, you will have to start from scratch. Changing a small mistake would require you to re-edit the entire document, which is something you probably don't want to do.

Excited Cat GIF by TikTok - Find & Share on GIPHY

2. Insufficient hues

It's possible that the output will be less vibrant than the original given the limited color palette supported by GIFs. This happens because the source picture could have several different shades of hue. There's a limit of 256 colors in GIFs. As a result, the remaining colors may appear duller or even pixelated, producing low-quality images, which runs counter to the basic goal of GIFs, which is to allow users to post an image without degrading its quality.

3. Large file size

Some GIF formats have greater bit depths than the 256 allowed by a web page, which might slow down loading times. They'll require a fast data transfer rate once the GIF has been coded. Even if the filesize of these GIFs is very tiny, a fast internet connection is still required for the best possible results. If your connection speed is low, your page may look choppy and unappealing as a whole.

4. Dithering impacts file size

Dithering is a method for creating the impression of color depth in photographs while using a small color palette. Dithering will be required due to the limited color space available in GIFs (256 at most). Dithering safeguards the data against damage caused by extreme color differences. However, dithering has a significant impact on the file's size and compression ratio. The uploading time and image quality will both suffer due to the limitations imposed by the compression setting.

5. Negative effect on brand image

The possible damage to the company's reputation is a major worry. Because GIFs are so quickly redistributed, you may lose ownership over them if they go viral. A GIF's offensive or inappropriate use might also hurt your company's image.

6. Hard to measure performance

GIFs add a lot of personality to your marketing efforts, but it can be challenging to monitor how effective they are. There is no simple way to monitor how many people view or interact with a GIF like there is with other forms of media.

Confused Thinking GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

GIFs almost disappeared

In 1999, Unisys Corporation announced it would begin charging a licensing fee for the use of GIFs on websites due to the company's ownership of a patent on the technology used to make GIFs. Because GIFs were so popular at the time, many site designers and developers were worried that the price of licensing would be beyond their price range.

So, many websites and developers started to gradually shift away from using GIFs in favor of other image formats like JPEG and PNG. Because of this, GIFs lost their once-huge following and were thought to be on their last legs. The patent on the technology required to make GIFs expired in the early 2000s, however, and the format has been available without charge ever since. Because of this, GIFs started making a comeback after being discouraged by the cost.

In the 2010s, GIFs skyrocketed in popularity due to the growth of social media sites like Tumblr and Reddit, where they were both widely used and easily discoverable. GIFs have also gained popularity as a result of the widespread availability they've enjoyed since their introduction. The rebirth of GIFs can be traced in part to the proliferation of mobile devices and messaging apps, where they have found widespread use as a fun and accessible way to convey a range of emotions.

The high cost of licensing caused GIFs to nearly disappear in 1999, but as their patent expired and they became royalty-free, they saw a renaissance in the early 2000s. The advent of new social media platforms and technological developments contributed to their recent renaissance.

The market for GIFs is massive

In May of 2022, Facebook paid a whopping $400 million to acquire Giphy, a popular GIF hosting service. Prior to that, they were bringing in over $30 million each year. One of the earliest additions to social media sites, it may be used for both lighthearted posting and serious marketing. One million internet users now have more ways to express themselves creatively.

Many people consider GIFs to be the de facto online lingua franca. This is because GIFs may convey a message in a way that is instantly clear and familiar, and can be shared across any medium and app. It's a great way to capture a fleeting moment to convey an emotion or pique interest to entertain or perplex the viewer. Beautiful nonverbal communication can emerge when people share both the GIF and their emotional reaction to it. It's an art, a nuanced way of expressing oneself.

Wrapping up

There you have it: a rousing debate over the merits of using GIFs. In general, I recommend using GIFs frequently. We can't just leave them behind when they still have so much potential and help make the web a more enjoyable and interesting place. Some may be put off by the drawbacks of these animated GIFs, but there's really only so much we can ask of them. The ability to use GIFs to their utmost potential, as well as the capability to design spectacular moving images that take into mind its weak points, may be a terrific approach to get over these drawbacks. Although GIFs have established their worth throughout the years, there are some areas where they may need to be enhanced. Your personal tastes should be the deciding factor. Even if you despise or find GIFs annoying, you can't deny that they help make people more expressive and the world a little bit livelier.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the positives of GIFs?

GIFs can become viral sensations on social media platforms, they can be made quickly, and don't call for a lot of technical expertise. GIFs are also modest in size because of the restrictions on the number of colors they may contain. Having them formatted in this way helps reduce the time it takes for them to load on websites.

What are disadvantages of GIFs?

GIFs can slow loading times on websites, they have limited editing capabilities and they are hard to measure in term of campaign performance.

Why are GIFs popular again?

The proliferation of social media platforms like Tumblr and Reddit in the 2010s made it easy for people to share and find GIFs, leading to a sudden rise in their popularity. Since their introduction, GIFs have enjoyed widespread availability, which has likely contributed to their rising popularity.