The modern web and mobile applications are rich in media content because it’s one of the crucial things that keeps the user engaged. An image is worth a thousand words, and a video is worth a million. Obviously, meaningful animated content has more worth than a static image or a paragraph of text. In this article, we’re going explore the two popular media files and which one’s actually better for the web.
Animated GIF vs Video
A GIF is a bitmap image format that supports animation. It’s popular on the web, social and other multimedia platforms because of its widespread adoption and support for animation. Common examples include a rotating logo, a banner with animated characters etc. An animated GIF can either loop endlessly or can play a few sequences and then stop. Web ad banners often make use of animated GIFs in their advertising or marketing campaigns.
Animated GIFs essentially make use of the frame feature within the GIF format. GIFs have the ability to host a number of frames within a single file and then display each frame in quick succession. You can also pull apart the GIF file if you want to see the individual images.
A video file on the other hand comprises of a container that stores the video coding data, the audio coding data and other metadata. The coded video and audio inside a container is known as essence, and a script that can decode an audio/video is known as a codec. Video formats standards like webm are profiles that have restrictions on the type of container format and the audio and video compression format used. However, you can use a video encoder library like FFMpegSharp, SharpFFmpeg and MeWiG – MEncoder or a video transcoding service to make videos viewable across different platforms and devices.
Pros and Cons
The file size of the final product is one of the big concerns when it comes to using animated GIFs. As mentioned earlier, since an animated GIF is basically a collection of individual images, the compression can only take place at the image level. On the other hand, videos and movie codecs have the ability to provide x/y compression for each frame, as well as allow for a compression across a third dimension – time.
If you have viewed an animated GIF on platforms like Imgur or Gfycat and inspected it, you might find that the underlying GIF is actually a video. The main reason why everyone uses video, even for displaying GIFs is the file size. Animated GIFs can have quite a large file size.
It is actually quite common for GIFs to measure up to several MBs, based largely on its quality, frame rate, length, etc. For developers attempting to improve the load times of their websites or to assist users to reduce their data usage, animated GIFs are not the ideal solution in this scenario.
Presentation of Messages
An advantage of animated GIFs is that it can show any message in a better way than static GIFs while at the same time, being easier to create than a video message. Animated GIFs are the perfect option when creating instruction type animations for tutorials, etc. Additionally, for younger audiences, animations tend to keep them involved for a longer period of time and inhibit distraction.
Animated GIFs limit the creator to a color scheme of 256 colors. For this reason, animated GIFs can often look to be of a lower quality when compared to other image file types. In some cases, they can come across as a little pixelated or blocky.
Ability to Edit
Another disadvantage of animated GIFs is that the user is not able to edit the animated GIF once the animation has been coded into the GIF file. Users, therefore, have to wait for the final image before working on the animation. Video files, on the other hand, allow for required editing to be included at any time during the creation of the video. In animated GIFs, users would have to redo the whole process from the beginning to accommodate even for a minor edit.
Audio and Sound Effects
As animated GIFs are a collection of a set of static images, users are unable to add sound to the animation. Needless to say, videos have the upper hand here.
As animated GIFs started out as normal GIF images to which animation was added on later, it is essentially limited to just one file format. On the other hand, videos can make use of a number of different formats. These range from video formats that display only the pixels that have changed between each frame to formats that track the movement of pixel groups. Ex- the movement of an object like a ball on the screen.
Animated GIFs continue to have a large audience on the web largely due to its compatibility with most platforms. This ensures that animated GIFs can be posted almost anywhere. Video formats have some limitations in this regard.
When compared to videos, animated GIFs are fairly economical and easy to create. Though being around since the 1990s, they are fast becoming a trend to include them in a landing page, especially when attempting to demonstrate a product or a service.
To conclude, animated GIFs come across as a cool and fun way to connect with different target audiences with funny, informative and engaging content. However, their large file size poses a hindrance by possibly increasing the page load time, and consuming a large part of your customer’s data plan.
Here are a few things to consider when trying to decide whether to use a video or an animated GIF on your landing page –
- Videos are great if they are well made and professional. A poorly made video is going to do more harm than good for landing page conversion rate.
- At times, animated GIFs can serve as a distraction for the visitor.
- If your video is just a demo of a product, you can consider using an animated GIF
- If you want to display emotions or need sound effects, use videos. Animated GIFs are not ideal when trying to portray emotions.
That said, in case you still want to make use of animated GIFs in your website or app, you can choose to consider converting them to video files which will save your customer’s data usage as well as not slowing down your website or app’s speed.
About the Guest Author
Limor is a technical writer and editor at Agile SEO, a boutique digital marketing agency focused on technology and SaaS markets. She has over 10 years’ experience writing technical articles and documentation for various audiences, including technical on-site content, software documentation, and dev guides. She specializes in big data analytics, computer/network security, middleware, software development and APIs.