Content and Copy
As promised, I’m going to do a quick rundown today on the whole animated GIF thing and review three ways of creating them to use in your content. But before we do that, let’s start at the beginning and answer the most basic question of all: what is an animated GIF and how do they differ from other image formats (I apologize if this gets a little technical so feel free to skip ahead if need be)?
A GIF is short for Graphics Interchange Format and was originally created by Compuserve in 1987 (a lot of you may never have even heard of this company but it was a heavy hitter back in the day) as a way to serve up image data for slower dial-up connections. This was achieved by limiting palette colors and compression. An animated GIF uses the same compression and palette limiting approach to store information for multiple images and presents them in sequence to create the illusion of animation. Make sense?
Oh and how do you pronounce it? According to one authoritative source, it should be pronounce like the peanut butter “Jif” but, really, language usually isn’t a programmer’s strong suit so feel free to say it however you like, they probably won’t argue.
If you simply want to add an animated GIF to your posts on WordPress, Blogger, Twitter or Tumblr you can do a quick search on Google and find millions of them at your disposal. If, however, you want to create your own (which I recommend if you really want to generate interest) there are a few ways to do so:
You can create your own by selecting a number of images and uploading them to one of the free, online GIF makers out there. In a sense, this is kind of like making the flip books that fascinated me as a child. It is tedious work though and is probably my least favorite option. I’ve used http://gifmaker.me/ in the past and it was relatively straightforward and, best of all, free.
If you have a version of Photoshop (which I do) there are a number o tutorials which will show you how to make your own animated GIFs. Personally, I find this to be the least attractive approach because it requires so much time and energy that you will have killed your ROI completely. Unless you really want to understand the inner workings of GIF creation (as I must have because I sat through a tutorial and then took the time to create one) don’t choose this approach.
Although this won’t work for everyone or every approach it is the easiest and quickest way to produce quality animated GIFs. It is especially well-suited to making share-worthy, meme type GIFs that overindex well on Tumblr and produce great results in blog posts and emails. I highly recommend ImgFlip because it allows you to either enter the URL of a video or, if you have ripping software installed, upload it and edit it online via your browser. I liked it so much thhat I even bought their monthly subscription (no small feat, because I’m incredibly cheap!)
I hope today’s post has brought a little clarity to the whole animated GIF thing and will help you to use them effectively in your content. Let me know if you have any questions about anything I didn’t cover and I’d be happy to answer. Have a happy hump day!