GIFs — the magical image type no one's quite sure how to pronounce* — pop up all across the digital world, from your latest Slack chat to marketing websites across the web.
Why are they so popular? Well, sometimes it’s just easier to explain a product with animation rather than with a static image. If you look through our help site, you’ll see that we use often GIFs to help designers understand Webflow.
GIFs let you visually demonstrate ideas and workflows in bite-sized chunks, without resorting to slow-loading videos or series of annotated images.
GIFs are also great for entertainment. We use them all the time here at Webflow. In fact, here’s one I shared with the team today.
But this post isn’t about our favorite GIFs. It’s about how you can easily create your own to use in your own projects, websites, and tools. So let’s get going.
Using GIFs for education, marketing, and support
Like I said, GIFs can really help people understand your product or website. They give your viewers just enough context to understand what you’re talking about, without distracting them too much or drowning them with buffering video.
They can also help you demonstrate features and workflows, so they’re perfect for your marketing site too.
They’re also a powerful tool for your support team. What better way to guide a user through a problem than a quick animated walkthrough? Instead of writing a detailed step-by-step guide, use a GIF to quickly show your user how to navigate or use a specific part of your app.
At Webflow, we use a variety of GIF creation tools, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. I’ll only cover the three I use most, and would love to hear what you (or your team) use to create animated GIFs.
LICEcap for Mac and Windows
Yep, you read that right. The strangest tool name is also the Webflow favorite. Why? Because it’s so simple.
Just scale the LICEcap window to the area you want to capture and press Record. LICEcap will not only record your screen, but also save the file on your desktop to be shared and used anywhere you like. Did I mention it’s free?
Kap for Mac
LICEcap is solid, but sometimes it gets flak for producing GIFs of a relatively low frame rate. One alternative to solve this issue is Kap, a lightweight, open-source screen recording app that produces some slick recordings. They're also a small and responsive team (just recently chimed in on Twitter to help some of our team out) that love what they're building, which goes a long way in winning my loyalty.
GIFMaker for Mac
Another popular GIF creation tool is GIFMaker, a Mac app that lets you easily create GIFs from video files or a series of images. It’s a bit heavier than LICEcap, but it’s my go-to for converting existing content (like screencasts) into GIF files.
Another thing I like about GIFMaker is that it makes it easy to adjust the framerate and file size before generating the file itself. GIFs tend to be pretty large files, so the ability to adjust these characteristics helps you avoid slowing down your site.
Where to find and use GIFs
You can work GIFs into your workflow in all kinds of ways, from marketing to education to pure entertainment. The following GIF tools are mostly for entertainment, and can be integrated into many of the tools and apps you already use everyday.
Giphy is a personal favorite, in part due to its Slack integration, which works like a charm when you want to surprise your team (and yourself) with a themed GIF.
Giphy also has a GIF creator! Just paste in Vine, YouTube URL, or Vimeo URL and you’re good to go.
Pro tip: When you integrate Giphy with Slack, you can pick the audience rating (from G to NSFW) to minimize your chances of offending anyone.
GIF Keyboard for iOS
GIF Keyboard is another favorite because it easily integrates into your everyday life. Unlike Giphy, which collects and stores GIFs on their website for you to browse, GIF Keyboard can be added as a keyboard to just about any of your messaging apps (including Facebook Messenger and iMessage).
What do you use to create GIFs?
GIFs are a great alternative to static images, and with these tools and resources you’re on your way to using them on your own marketing site, social channels, and help content.
Don’t see your favorite GIF tools here? I’d love to hear what tools you’re using to create, share and use GIFs — so send us a tweet!
*The creators say it should be pronounced "Jiff," like the peanut butter. But I prefer the good ole hard-G "Giff."