After I published Should you add screenshots to documentation?, I got some comments from folks who prefer GIFs to screenshots because GIFs can more clearly show how to use a complicated user interface.
I agree that GIFs are cool and useful, but they’re also MUCH harder to keep up-to-date than screenshots and have extra accessibility considerations if you decide to use them.
WCAG level A standard requires that:
For any moving, blinking or scrolling information that (1) starts automatically, (2) lasts more than five seconds, and (3) is presented in parallel with other content, there is a mechanism for the user to pause, stop, or hide it
If you use a GIF, you need to consider those accessibility constraints, as well as the standard consideration when providing visual task steps: Can someone complete the task successfully if the screenshot, GIF, or video is unavailable?
So if you decide to use GIFs instead of screenshots, keep in mind these extra considerations:
- Can someone pause, stop, or hide the GIF?
- Does the GIF stop moving in less than 5 seconds?
- Did I write effective alt text for the GIF?
- Is the source file for the GIF stored somewhere accessible to the rest of my team?
- Do we have clear and consistent style guidelines for creating GIFs?