Support for Animated GIFs in HTML Emails

We've updated our results for animated GIF support in email. Check out our latest post.

I’m not one for Flash, but many web designers obviously use it. Some for interactivity and others for animation. In the web environment the latter is a replacement for animation formats of days old: animated GIFs. But Flash isn’t supported in the email environment, so for web designers accustomed to using animation to communicate a message are left searching for alternatives. Enter animated GIFs.

I’m not going to argue about whether animated GIFs are a sufficient replacement for Flash or whether they are the devil or anything else of that nature. Rather, I’m simply going to share what I’ve learned about support for them in the email environment. The results are dizzying, so try to keep up.

The Results

Every single email client I tested supports animated GIFs. Well, except for one: Outlook 2007. Big surprise. Though if you carefully plan your animation, this news may not be so bad. Outlook 2007 displays the first frame of the GIF as a static image. So if your first frame works as a static image, you are in good shape.

Some Advice

I’m like a mother sharing advice you don’t necessarily want but that you do actually need. So I have some helpful tips for you regarding use of animated GIFs:

  • Don’t forget about accessibility. If you use animated images to tell a story, ensure everyone gets the message. Consider those with low or no visibility, slow connections and those who pay per kilobyte on their mobile devices.
  • Learn from history. Blinking, strobing or streaking text or graphics sucked in 1999 and they suck now, too. Leave the annoying animations behind.
  • Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. Enough said.
  • Be creative. Just as any tool in web design, we can use animated GIFs to enhance our message in non-invasive ways.

So that’s where animated GIFs stand in the email environment. Enjoy if you must.

Posted by Administrator

13 Comments

  • Jorge Cid
    22nd November

    Doesn’t your Mac OS included e-mail client behave as outlook 2007? Mine does.

  • Graphter
    12th December

    “The results are dizzying, so try to keep up.”

    What exactly am I trying to keep up with here? A lack of useful information? I’d welcome some stats on user opinion, click-through rates and server-side issues in relation to animated gifs from this article. As it stands it presents just 1 useful fact (Outlook 2007 compatibility issues) - Hardly dizzying by anyone’s definition of the word.

  • Dave Greiner
    14th December

    Graphter, your abruptness aside, I think you might have missed Mark’s sarcasm with his dizzying call. In terms of the other information you’re looking for, the articles purpose was to cover the “support” for animated gifs, not be a comprehensive guide on their effectiveness from a marketing perspective.

    Also, there are no server-side issues to consider, image maps are served just like regular old images.

  • Matt Bee
    30th January

    I have also heard that Microsoft Exchange Server means only the first frame of an animated gif is displayed, regardless of email client used.

    I have not confirmed this, but it makes sense, Microsoft have always struggled with gifs.

  • Anna Yeaman
    23rd March

    Hi,

    I have been using animated gifs for a while now in my clients emails.

    The Outlook 2007 issue can easily be worked around…

    Many large retailers regularly use animated gifs in their emails:
    Marks & Spencer, Ralph Lauren, Bluefly, REI Gearmail, Lands End, West Elm, Brooks Brothers, Neiman Marcus, Overstock, Horchow, Saks, CB2, Norm Thompson, Williams-Sonoma, Juicy Couture, Art.com, Dior, Macys, Gap, Cole Hann, Tiffany & Co, Fred Segal, Shopbop, Pottery Barn…

    I save all the animated emails I get into a folder so if anyone wants me to forward them some examples just let me know. I have more than I thought, around 90. If people are interested I might post a bunch online….

    I saw an increase in animated emails over Christmas, I even have an animated Santa on a scooter from Norm Thompson! A lot of retailers sent out soft sell holiday cards to their list which included fun animation.

    You see a lot of animated calls to action….such as “Only three hours left” for online sales. REI Gearmail use animation well, one email shows a photo of a jacket which cycles through the 5 different colors it comes in. Tiffany blundered by leaving the first frame blank before fading into the words ” Welcome to a New Luxury”.

    I have four of my examples on my site. (All to image heavy, I need to put up some better examples but you get the idea)


    http://www.stylecampaign.com/html/animation.html

    Anna Yeaman

  • Anna Yeaman
    30th April

    Hi,

    a bunch of people contacted me wanting to see some of the animated emails in my collection. I just posted my top 10 on my new blog:

    http://stylecampaign.com/blog/?cat=4

    Click the pictures to launch the animated emails in a new window.

    Enjoy,

    Anna

  • John
    1st May

    There is a posting on Microsoft Blog where you can vote to tell Microsoft animated GIF within outlook 2007 is an important feature.  If we get enough people to vote, hopefully they will look into the code again.

    http://www.microsoft.com/office/community/en-us/default.mspx?mid=d7118c2d-78aa-41e8-96fa-b1c11deccb09&dg=microsoft.public.design.gallery

  • Mark
    28th May

    Thanks for the info.
    My wife has been trying to figure out why her .gif’s aren’t animated for a couple of weeks now (Outlook 2007) . . .
    Well, we may not have found a solution but thanks to your post here we now know why.

  • Mark k
    12th July

    Has any one tried css flick image animation? Crude I know but basic animation all the same.
    VOTE Outlook 2007 sucks

  • Justin Smith
    26th July

    A simple answer is to move the last frame to the first, this potential has the undesired flicker effect depending on your animation but at least you will see the completed animation in Outlook 2007.  Come on Microsoft make them work again!

    http://www.mypawprint.co.uk

  • ~Justin Long
    9th August

    This is by design. Outlook 2007 and Vista no longer use IE to render HTML/Gifs etc.

    If you want to view animated gifs in an email:
    From “Actions” on the Ribbon Choose “Other Actions” > View in Browser to see an animated gif.

  • Alex Schultz
    23rd October

    Wish I could see the animated GIF I created in Microsoft Entourage for MAC 2004, but no matter what, I can’t get any animation. The file runs fine in Fireworks. I exported the animated GIF from Flash. Are there setting that I need to be conscience of in Flash or is it an E-mail setting?

  • Nicolas Pierri
    6th December

    I want to create a mail using flick animation or any other way of animation that works in outlook 2007
    I’ll appreciate any help

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