Show, don’t tell, with GIFs

The gif is the cockroach of file formats. Every time we think it should die it re-appears with a new use case. In Intercom we create GIFs all the time to help our customers, and they love them.

Like any software product we field lots of “how-do-I-do” type questions in Intercom. The industry standard for replies to these questions, sadly, is robotic bulleted instructions. Click file, then click new, then click template, etc. This is a messy experience for your customer. They keep your email open, while trying to chase down different labels & icons to click in your product.

We believe in the principle of Show, don’t Tell. The reason most people choose to tell customers how to do something, is that it’s easier to type out instructions than it is for most of us to record animations or annotate screenshots. We believed that too. That is, until we learned how to create GIFs. We’ve fallen in love with them for explaining “how-tos”, and reporting bugs. They remove the need for enumerating steps, adding arrows and lines, or writing overly wordy descriptions. For reporting interface errors in transitions or animations, GIFs are simply the best solution. They’ll show everywhere, in in-app messages, emails, docs, and beyond.

Every single time we send one to a customer, we get the same response. “How did you make that?! I want to make them!”. So we’ll share our secret: Download Licecap for OS X. It’s not an attractive name, it’s not a sexy product, but it’s amazing for recording a portion of your desktop into a GIF.

So stop telling people where to click and start showing them, your customers will thank you.

Alternatives: Rory Hughes informs me that GifGrabber, available in the app store, is another good solution, while Jonathan Cremin notes that you can record your desktop with Quicktime and convert it to a Gif with GifBrewery.