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How to Boost User Engagement with GIFs


User Engagement

How to Boost User Engagement with GIFs

We don’t know if Steve Wilhite of CompuServe had known that GIFs would be this revolutionary when he introduced the GIF format back in 1987. When he first created the GIFs, the animation, as many think the essential feature of a GIF, wasn’t even a consideration. Standing for Graphics Interchange Format, GIFs are image formats that are built on a lossless compression algorithm. GIFs have gone from the 90s website construction signs to a cultural phenomenon by leaving patent battles and format fights behind.

Why Should You Use GIFs?

Many of us use GIFs to communicate daily with friends, colleagues, or family. They are also great messengers when it comes to user engagement too, especially if your users are millennials and Gen Zers. Almost two-thirds of millennials think that GIFs work better than words. Moreover, according to Nielsen Norman Group, users read around 20% of the text on the average page.

Our brains process visuals 60000x faster than text and keep 80% of what we see compared to 20% of what we read. Putting things into an image aids memory more than text. GIFs brings visual power to your app.  

Alex Chung, CEO of GIPHY, explains that an average GIF contains 60 frames, so they are capable of conveying 60,000 words – the same as the average novel.

Easy to Consume

In the modern world where our attention span is extremely limited, GIFs are very useful to capture someone’s attention with their short durations and easy-to-consume styles. Users don’t need to take any action to watch a GIF and get engaged. They are autonomous and deliver the message quickly.

Emotional Touch

GIFs are great when you want to connect your users emotionally, when you want them to feel a breeze, or to smell fresh coffee. Being emotionally touched motivates your users to engage with your app.

Image: Fast Company, Cinemagraphs are photographs with minor repeated moves. They are great at conveying emotions. Dogfish Head Brewery using cinemagraphs for their new brew.

Call-to-Action Function

GIFs guide your user’s eye to a specific path without disturbing them. Guiding their eyes is very essential to creating a powerful call-to-action. GIFs bring the perfect opportunity to engage your users and complete intended call-to-actions.

Image: GIPHY

How to Use GIFs?

GIFs are an integral part of our lives. There are many reasons why they should also be an integral part of your app.  Let’s look at how you can use GIFs in our app.


Onboarding standards are very high in our times. Companies are working hard to come up with more user-friendly onboarding sessions.

Apart from the fact that GIFs are great at spicing things up, and adding that extra bit of emotion, they are also great at showing your users how your app can help them and how they can navigate it easily. This should eventually boost engagement.

ART+Marketing, You can use GIFs to show your app’s value


Both as a part of product updates and their onboarding, you can use GIFs to announce other opportunities for users such as sales, latest offerings, coupons, personalized messages, and partnerships, etc. GIFs convey messages quickly and grasp the user’s attention. Announcements don’t have to be plain texts or just emojis such as 📩  or 🛒 , although emojis are also great at conveying messages. Bringing movement increases the chance of engagement.

Image: ClickZ, Nintendo announcing its collaboration with Vans with a GIF

Educational Content

Educational content might be a part of your app’s onboarding process or a core part of your app. However you are using educational content, one of the best ways to serve them to your users is through GIFs. Adding GIFs doesn’t always have to be about entertainment but also can be educational. Tutorials GIFs are great at grasping your users’ attention and keeping them engaged.

Entrepreneur, A tutorial to wear a scarf in different

Displaying Your Products

Let’s say you are selling your products via your mobile apps. GIFs come handy when you want to display their features and variations, such as different colors, areas of usages. GIFs bring the opportunity to free your products from stillness and with the right CTAs to guide your users to engage accordingly.

Image: Entrepreneur, Kate Spade displaying different colors of bags

Your Brand’s Personality

GIFs make your communication with your users more engaging and more human. You can both create your own branded GIFs to reach your users, or you can use the existing popular culture GIFs to make references and eventually introduce your brand’s personality to your users.

Image: Kraft Dinner Tumblr, Kraft showing brand personality to Tumblr audience


Did a user make a purchase on your shopping app? Time to show appreciation. Did they reach 10K steps on your health and fitness app? Time to celebrate. An appropriate clapping GIF is more appealing to share than a plain text.

Involve Users

What your users think is one of the most important building blocks of your app’s improvement. You can get your users’ feedback by allowing them to react to your or other users’ content with GIFs. Commonly found in social media apps, GIFs are shared more than 1B daily.

Image: 9to5 Mac, iMessage GIF keyboard. GIPHY, Tenor, and other GIF databases also provide GIF keyboards.

GIFs are great for creating fun conversations, yet they are also very effective at engaging with your app’s users. Use these powerful animated images to emotionally connect with your users, guide them complete desired actions, and let them express themselves.

Looking for new ways to boost user engagement? Check out Storyly to discover how you can engage your users with the power of stories.


Berkem Peker

Berkem is master of none, jack of all trades. Happens to be a Growth Strategist at Storyly. Knows/writes about growth frameworks and user behavior.

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