Most people notice motion. Stare outside for several seconds. A moving object inevitably attracts your attention, whether the object is a living creature, a vehicle, or something pulled in the wind.
Yet presenters either tend to ignore motion entirely or overuse it. Sometimes, a presenter will insert a video. At worst, a presenter will create slides that induce nausea as a result of meaningless zooming or panning. Most slides contain motionless words and images.
Motion on a slide—thanks to the animated GIF—can focus attention in a controlled manner. To be clear: I don't mean you should use GIFs with images of movie stars or pop culture icons. (As one might read, "These aren't the GIFs you're looking for...") Instead, I encourage you to create your own animated GIF.
An animated GIF offers a way to emphasize a specific idea. Instead of several screenshots, create a GIF that shows a series of steps on a single slide. Instead of multiple photos, use a GIF that displays a product in various colors. Instead of a chart, create a GIF to emphasize the trend indicated as numbers change over time. Or, replace a text list of app names with a GIF that reveals a new app icon on a mobile home screen every five seconds.
When used well, whatever item changes in your GIF—the menu selection, color, or icons—will reinforce your message.
Think of your GIF as a short sequence of images that endlessly loop, over and over, until you move on to the next slide.
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First, you'll need to capture and save a series of images for your GIF. Most images will work—drawings, illustrations, screenshots—as long as they're in a standard format (e.g., JPG, PNG, GIF, PSD or BMP). Keep your images the same size to minimize the appearance of unwanted "jumps." If you crop images, make sure to select the same section of the image. Screenshots work well, since they're inherently all the same size.
Reduce distractions in your images. For example, set your background or wallpaper to a solid color. Make your screen as visually simple as possible: Often, I hide or minimize menus, extensions, and toolbars.
You may want to draw on your images to focus attention. Add an arrow to point to a menu item, or a box or circle to draw attention to a portion of the screen. Text captions may help, too.
I like to create a Google Drive folder to save my source images. That way, if I ever want to modify or adjust them, they're all in one place.
Create the GIF
While there are plenty of complicated GIF creation apps and sites, I suggest GIFCreator.me. It works well on a Chromebook, and in almost any browser. Unlike many other GIF creation tools, GIFCreator.me is free, doesn't require Flash, doesn't watermark your work, and does allow you to download your creation. The site also doesn't require account registration.
Go to GifCreator.me and upload the images you created. After they're uploaded, you'll see a preview of your GIF in the browser.
You can change the sequence, speed, and size of the GIF. Drag-and-drop to change the order of the images. Set the speed that images change: Choose a transition time as low as one millisecond or as high as five seconds. If needed, adjust the size of the GIF.
Choose "Create GIF Animation," wait a bit, then choose "Download GIF" and save the GIF file. (I tend to put this GIF in the same folder as the source images.)
Insert GIF into Google Slides
Next, open Google Slides. In a browser, choose Insert, then Image, and choose the animated GIF file you just saved. Or, with Google Slides on Android or iOS, tap the + icon, then choose Image. (On Android, you can add your GIF directly from Google Drive.) Resize the image on your slide as needed.
When you're finished, open Google Slides from any device—the web, on Android or iOS—to show people your animated GIF and other slides. (Want to see a sample? Take a look at a set of Google Slides I created to show a few ways you might use GIFs for work.)
GIFs as art
Kevin Burg and Jamie Beck take the concept of animated GIFs to an entirely new level at Cinemagraphs.com. Watch one of their images and it's almost like viewing a short silent film. And that's the point: Well-crafted moving images take practice, skill, and an artistic eye to create. I hope that the next set of slides you create include an animated image that's creative and compelling.
What's your experience?
Have you created an original animated GIF for use at work? If you can, share it and mention @TechRepublic or @awolber on Twitter.
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Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.