What began as a concept in an interactive design class quickly evolved into one of the most widely used gif-sharing apps on the App Store. Gifit is an app that utilizes Giphy’s glorious gif database, and allows users to text reaction gifs to their friends. In order to retain full ownership of the application, I designed the user interface of the app and outsourced the development. Keeping a business strategy in mind, I included non-obtrusive banner ads through iAd and AdMob networks and ideated a sponsored gif category that can be easily changed in an administrative backend. Sponsored gif categories encourage users to share brand specific gifs, while at the same time give the app exposure via the brand’s social media accounts.
It’s been covered by countless media outlets online, and has become popular through organic growth on social media sites including Reddit and Twitter.
And for the record, it’s a hard g.
When iOS 7 was released, I noticed that gifs in the messages app were animated. I started searching online for gifs and inserting them into conversations, which ended up resulting in a new form of communication inside my friend group. Before Gifit (and every subsequent gif-sharing app) was created, the process of talking through gifs was laborious:
- Open Safari browser
- Go to Giphy.com or Google images
- Search for a gif that fits a reaction or subject
- Tap and hold the animated gif
- Save the image to your device
- Open the messages app
- Tap the camera icon
- Select choose from camera roll
- Tap the animated gif you saved to your device
- Send the text message
I decided that there had to be a better way, but after doing some market research I found that there wasn’t.
There were apps on the app store that allowed users to message gifs, but after testing I found them to be sub-par. Some of the problems I noticed were:
- They took up a ton of space on your phone, because the images were stored in the app’s files
- The selection of gifs were small and poorly sorted
- The user-interface of the apps were clunky
- The user could only copy the images, which required them to open the messages app and manually paste the gif into a conversation
- Most apps were not free, or required in-app purchases
The idea was to create an app that sorted gifs based on reaction for conversations. After tapping on a category, the user would be presented with a variety of gifs related to that reaction. Tapping on a gif would allow the user to send it in a message, copy the image, copy the image URL, or save the image to the device. After receiving feedback from classmates, I also decided to add in a favorites and recently used category to the home screen.
Giphy.com—the website that I already used to find gifs—had an API available that would make all of these features possible. I decided to utilize it and offer millions of gifs (literally) without taking up any space on the user’s phone.
The original mockup for the app was created during iOS 7.2, before some features of the final version were possible. After coming up with a plan and a mockup, I hired a freelance developer in Pakistan to write the application in Xcode. By the time things got started, the final version of iOS was released and the rest of the features were added into the plan.
Working with a developer in another country was challenging, but not impossible. It required a lot of back and forth visual communication. Throughout the development process, the name was changed to Gifit and the design of the user interface evolved.
Since gifs were being pulled from the Giphy database using their API, I instructed the developer to write the app so that categories were pulled from a backend. This allows me to add, update, and reorder categories without the need to push an application update. Instead, all I have to do is log into the backend, create a category, and add a gif to be displayed as the category image. When the user taps on a category, gifs that are tagged with the category name are pulled from the Giphy database.
The backend also allows me to add sponsored gif categories at the top of every user’s home screen. The gifs can be added to the Giphy database and tagged to appear in the category.
After launching the app, I posted it on Reddit and used social influencer connections to promote the app through popular Twitter accounts. I also contacted multiple media outlets to review the app. It was an instant success, and has been covered by countless blogs—even BGR and Fast Company.
After 2 weeks of climbing the charts on the app store, I took advice from reviews and significantly improved the app. The current version includes endless scrolling, non-animated lists with tap-to-hold previews that save the users from using too much data, and user-suggested categories.
Months after launching, countless gif-texting apps were added to the app store—but none compare.
And that’s how Gifit was born. 🙂