By Dennis Mortensen In Events, WTD | September 2023

Are GIFs better than screenshots with callouts? (WTD Atlantic 2023)

We were chuffed to have been chosen to host a talk on The Power of Product Screenshots in your Help Documentation at the Write the Docs Atlantic conference on September 12. It was a great couple of days learning all things software documentation with the passionate and engaging community that is Write the Docs. Thank you to everyone who took the time to listen to our talk and for all the thoughtful questions throughout.

LaunchBrightly The Power of Product Screenshots WTD Atlantic

Q: Do you think .gifs are better than screenshots with callouts? - Deirdre Brophy, Natasha Baker & Jonathan Algar

Research has suggested people are more likely to commit static images (along with the text) to long term memory over video (I include .gifs into that) and that alone might be reason enough for some to NOT use animated GIF and GIF like animations.

I have mixed emotions on this as well (as we speak in 2023), but if forced to pick a side, I would go with static PNGs (image) over MP4/GIFs (video). I feel confident that static PNGs come out on top across most scenarios :)

Having said that, I do think there a situations where animation warranted, such as the following (not exhaustive, and just illustrative):

  1. There are Product features which by design are animated and the very experience is not static, and showing a static image of a moving/changing experience can in and of itself be unhelpful or confusing.
  2. Very complex processes or workflows where each part is hard to explain without first having some basic idea of the whole. I do think these work best with a video explainer and subsequent static images, imho.

I would like to echo Paulo’s comment. It is rarely, if ever, a good idea to autoplay and loop. I highly recommend the play button and stop at the end.


Abi: Moving images are...complicated. They can be super effective or super distracting.

Paulo: I’m not a fan of them, especially those that auto-start and play on repeat. Like GIFs. (edited)

You can see a summary of the talk and find a link to the recording here.

And you can also find a link to the other great questions from the chat below:

Got a question on product screenshots that wasn’t answered? Feel free to connect with us (Dennis, Josh) or email and ask directly! We’re always happy to chat :-)