Animation in email – does it serve a purpose?

Recently I’ve been receiving lots of emails with rather snazzy animated gifs within them and as an email designer I must admit they bring a fresh new look to the overall design of the email. However do they serve a purpose in projecting the message of what your email is about? use animated gif with a little bit of consumer trickery; they have created a short count down clock with the call to action above it saying “Hurry, Only XXX Left.” The hope is that straight away the recipient will panic and want to hit the button to find out more. It’s a nice touch.

However some companies can go a little over board with them. For example, Victoria Beckham emails use an animated gif at the top of their chain of emails which highlights the clothes advertised.

Now this would be a great way to push the product if it was incorporated in the design correctly. But by putting it at the very top of the email before any other content it immediately makes the email look spammy, as you cannot see any relevant content until you navigate down the page.
It seems a lot of retail companies are jumping on the animation band wagon; Urban Outfitters uses a lot of animation in their emails which visually looks great and is very in touch with their target market, when animated the images below switch between facing forwards and facing back.

However what happens when the images are not displayed or you receive it on a mobile device that’s not in a good signal area? This is what happens – “Email artistic depression”…

The visual value and most importantly the content purpose value disappear as there is no engagement or call to action other than the subject line for the recipients to engage with. This being the case, always make sure you have a full back up option within the build of the email i.e. coloured blocks in placement of images when they are not displayed and readable HTML text not imagery so its always clearly dictating the message. Use HTML buttons not images so that these are always there and ready to be clicked on.

Tips for using gifs in emails

In terms of size for the animated gif, the smaller the better, like with anything on the web and especially mobile, load time is crucial to keeping the interest of the recipient. If they are waiting for more than 10 seconds it’s highly likely they’ll just move on to the next email in their inbox… and maybe not come back. Anything under 100kb is great but what you have to remember is the more complex and creative the animation the higher the file size.

Since the introduction of smartphones, and most recently responsive design email, there has been a question asked by many: ‘Are animated gifs supported by most email inbox clients?’ The table below will help answer this question however as with any send, it’s always wise to test and test again to make sure you don’t suffer any inbox embarrassments.