If you were online in the 90’s, you know, when AOL was king, then you may remember the preponderance of animated GIFs. They were novelties and they were everywhere. You might have seen a page with something like this on it:
It’s cute and funny, for about 5 seconds. The thing about novelty is that it wears out quickly and then enters the realm of annoying. So are GIFs a thing of the past, like AOL? Not necessarily. They’ve come a long way from endlessly dancing bananas. They’ve found renewed popularity in the form of short video clips, but do they have a place in the professional world? Only if they serve a functional purpose.
Moving objects naturally get the eye’s attention. This is why you see people waving store signs on street corners. For attention-getting purposes, you’ll want the animation to be brief, tasteful, and intermittent. This telephone icon animates every 5 seconds, and can be used as a call-to-action to encourage visitors to call the displayed number. It’s more of a “Psst, hey you can call this number.” Instead of “Hey call me! Call now! Right now! Call this number! I said call! Pick up the phone!”
When Mailchimp redesigned their user interface, they sent an email out along with animated GIFs demonstrating how each section worked. These animations clearly demonstrated what the email was talking about and greatly enhanced its helpfulness.
If you are interested in using animated GIFs, it’s best to create them yourself. The vast majority of animated GIF repositories are full of frantic, dated images that will only serve to annoy. If you have Photoshop, there are numerous tutorials that will guide you through the process, for example, this one. If you don’t have Photoshop, there are several online GIF animators you can use for free, like these.