Website Killers Part 1: The Animated GIF

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Drawing of a rotating GIF animation being bombed

There are a few of things that will pretty much kill any good website. These items were once all the rage and still have valid uses today. However when they are mentioned to a good designer he or she will typically cringe with fear and begin searching for the nearest exit. I’m talking about animated GIFs, frames, and splash pages—and this is the first part in a three part series on why or why not to use them.

1987

Ah, 1987. The Joshua Tree was released, the stock market crashed, Fred Astaire died, Final Fantasy was released in Japan and Prozac made its debut in the US—oh, and the GIF image format was introduced.

The GIF , or Graphics Interchange Format, image can handle up to 256 colors and supports animations. And animate we have.

The problem

Animated GIFs were popularized in the nineties when everyone who could create a website had a rotating @ on their contact page. Before we knew it folks were animating their logos and then eventually graduated to animated “under construction” signs which were prominently featured on their unfinished pages. Once Macromedia Flash came into widespread use, however, pointless animated GIFs were out and so were the websites that harbored them.

So why not use animated GIFs on your website? The short answer is that it will make you look like an amateur and it will seriously date your website. It could even undermine your credibility.

Stop and think

There are some valid uses for animated GIFs, but you need stop and think before you use them. Ask yourself if they will actually serve a purpose on your site. If the purpose is to look cool and high-tech I’m sorry but you will not accomplish your goal—in fact, you’re just going to look old-school. If you want to show how something is progressing (like in a web-based application) or how something works, however, you probably have a good reason to animate. In the end the point is not to add stuff to your website that serves no purpose.