Using GIFs in Technical Documentation

Posted on Jul 23, 2020


GIFs are a great addition to user guides, FAQs, etc. If used unmindfully then the document can fail at its objective.

When do I use GIFs?

At Whatfix, I use it to get audiences ‘acquainted’ with something that they’re going to do themselves, but with the expectation that more detail is forthcoming.

When creating a GIF, I pay attention to the following details.

  • GIFs are supplementary to the documentation and not a substitute for writing things down.
  • GIFs reduce accessibility—not searchable, search engines can’t crawl the info, and impacts the audience with reduced vision.
  • Keep a check on the GIF size. Multiple GIFs in a page increases the page load time and the audience may give up.
  • Keep it short. GIFs don’t support playback and people don’t like watching it again and again.

My process

The easiest way is to use a browser extension to directly capture the screen as a GIF.

But, I follow a 4 step process.

  • Step 1: Record the screen using QuickTime as a video

  • Step 2: Edit using iMovie

  • Step 3: Speed up the video by 2X or 4X

  • Step 4: Convert to GIF

I know that this an overkill but we can get better frame rates using this. Higher the frame rate better the quality and less jankiness.