The internet has changed dramatically since becoming accessible in the early 1990s. One of the most significant technologies that helped shape how we interact online was the GIF file. While GIFs will always have a place in cyberspace, there is a new revolutionary format that is smaller and easier to modify.
Today we're covering GIF vs. Lottie, comparing how each format rose in popularity and each one's place in the digital world, particularly regarding web development and design.
- The history of the GIF
- Advantages of using GIF files
- GIFs limitations
- The rise of Lottie animations
- Advantages of Lottie
- How to implement Lottie in 2022
What is GIF? – A Brief History
The GIF (graphics interchange format) file was invented by Steve Wilhite and his team of developers at CompuServe in 1987 so users could send color images over pay-per-hour email. At the time, sending a large file was nearly impossible due to the size of the file, restrictive memory, and limited computing power.
Wilhite and his team solved the problem by developing a new file format that could be compressed and sent in as a smaller version without losing quality. GIF also permitted 256 colors allowing for the first color picture to be added to the World Wide Web in 1991.
GIFs evolved to contain multiple frames and looped together thanks to the lossless compression algorithm. The format became the industry standard for sending image and video files online; however, GIFs would come under fire with the adoption of PNG files in the late 1990s. Other formats became more practice for sending static pictures, but GIFs were the best option for animated images.
Advantages of Using GIFs Today
Once HTML was rolled out, birthing modern web development, GIF continued to be the go-to choice for designers incorporating animation. GIFs are still widely used today because they are easy to make and relatively small but are primarily used for entertainment. GIF makers allow users to clip videos, add text, and share across social media. The format is rarely used for design because there are more efficient methods of incorporating motion to page elements.
Limitations of a GIF
In the late 80s, the lossless compression algorithm that made a GIF possible was revolutionary; but today, it's a fundamental component of the internet. While GIFs are still very popular with web developers, the format has limitations.
First, GIF files have a parameter restricting the amount of rendered colors, limiting the image or video quality. In addition, GIFs are raster images comprised of pixels. When the video is scaled up, the pixel will become fuzzy, diminishing the user's experience.
GIF files are relatively small compared to other types of video files, making them a great option if you want to add one or two to a web page or app. However, when multiple are contained in a single page element, or there are various GIFs on a page, the speed of the website or app is slowed down dramatically.
Finally, designers can't change a GIF file on the front end. If they need to alter the colors or change the animation, they must go back into their design software, make the adjustments, and reupload to the webpage.
The Next Phase of Internet Animations – Lottie
GIFs reshaped the online experience and how developers created web-based projects. The format is still used today, but there are apparent issues making room for a new way to incorporate animation online.
Lottie was developed to accommodate the needs of modern web developers and designers. The file format is lightweight, vector-based, and customizable on the front end, making Lottie the easy choice for projects featuring animated elements.
An Introduction to Lottie Animations
Developers at Airbnb built a new animation solution because "complex animations for Android, iOS, and React Native apps was a difficult and lengthy process. You either had to add bulky image files for each screen size or write a thousand lines of brittle, hard-to-maintain code."
The new technology uses JSON to render animations created in Adobe After Effects, making the content easier to manipulate while keeping page load speeds down.
Advantages of Using Lottie
JSON is essentially a file of code that can be changed in real-time. This allows developers to make changes on the fly by altering the element's code rather than reworking the animation with the software and reuploading it to the web page.
Below are more reasons why Lottie is superior to GIF and the animation format of the future.
Extremely Small Size
JSON is tiny compared to files comprising of pixels. As a result, the format doesn't bog down web pages even if it's packed with animated designs.
Lottie uses vector rather than raster graphics to render images. Vector graphics are created with geometry, so the quality isn't affected when you increase the size.
Easy Front-End Modifications
Animations in a JSON file or embedded into a web page can be changed by editing the code. Editing the code allows you to alter:
- Frame Rate
- Stroke Width
- Background Color
If you upload a JSON file into a CMS like WordPress or Shopify, the plugin you are using will affect how much control you have over the animation once it's on the page. Be sure to check out our blog for tutorials on how to implement Lottie animations.
*Color is also easily modified, but you will have to navigate back to the animation library
Merges Animation and Web Developer Workflows
Control over animation characteristics is a significant advantage for project managers, web developers, and designers. Even if you have basic coding or CMS skills, you can change color, trigger, speed, and other components in seconds.
A revision request to change an element's attributes doesn't involve the animator, saving time and budget.
Access will Only Increase
The advantage GIF has over Lottie in 2022 is access. Every web or app builder renders GIF to the page because it's been used for decades. Lottie has a lower adoption rate but will be the standard for animation because it's more efficient and easier to work with.
Implementing Lottie in 2022
Most CMS platforms have embraced Lottie, but your customization capabilities range depending on your platform of choice. For example, Elementor Pro has Lottie built into the builder. You can upload a JSON file and control all front-end attributes without code directly from the page editor.
Check out our tutorial on how to use Lottie with Elementor for FREE.
Other CMS platforms aren't as accommodating to Lottie animations. For example, Shopify offers a plugin for $15 per month or allows you to use its Liquid Editor to embed Lottie directly into the code.
More advanced builders like React JS also accommodate Lottie animations. Read our step-by-step tutorial to learn how to use Lottie with the React-Lottie NPM package.
GIFs will always have a place online, at least for the foreseeable future. However, if you are using animations to add value to your web pages or applications, there's no better option than Lottie. The size and usability of the JSON-based designs offer a significantly better experience for developers and users.
If you are ready to start embracing the future of web-based animation, try out the Creattie library for free. You'll find thousands of premium designs in cohesive, industry-specific collections ready to add to web pages in seconds.