Data GIF Maker creates quick, slick visuals

Something interactive — or different — can capture attention easily. I learned about Data GIF Maker from Google News Lab from Try This!, a weekly newsletter on tools for journalism.

The big idea: Adding data to any post just got a million times easier. The free tool allows users to create GIFs in rectangle, circle or racetrack format.

Quick pitch: From the simple data entry step to a few clicks for customization, it took less than 10 minutes to create three GIFs. To practice, I collected and compared information about three local sandwich shops I love, producing visuals about cost, distance from home and number of locations in the area. Here’s a professional example, too.

What I liked: Easy to use. Clean, slick design.

What I learned: The visuals are meant for basic, simple comparisons. The time spent waiting for the GIF to automate is the slowest step. (I also learned this is NOT a new tool. It’s a few years old, and Google provides a nice overview here.)

Good for: Ideal for stories with two or three data points. GIFs grab attention anyway, but this is especially good for a pop of color on the screen in stories where there might not be enough photos or other elements to break up the text.

Price comparison in U.S. dollars for hot turkey sandwiches with spicy sauce and all standard toppings on a sourdough roll

Limitations or frustrations: In a few places I expected a tool tip or hint when hovering, such as when saving (I assumed “HQ” was high quality and “LQ” was low quality). Also, when I viewed the GIF via the storage link, the quality was noticeably different. The headline has a character count, so write tight!

Helpful hints: Click on the paint bucket to change the colors. If you’re using more than one type of GIF in a story, each type defaults to a different (and clashing) color scheme. Matching the colors definitely looks better. Too bad it doesn’t allow for custom colors.

A drawback: The mileage doesn’t display exactly. The original data entered included percentages rather than whole numbers.

The bottom line: This is too easy not to use!

This post is part of a series geared toward preparation for the Team Storytelling workshop at JEA Advisers Institute, July 8-11, 2019. Tools featured here have been tested or recommended by workshop facilitators who will be able to offer guidance in person as teams collaborate to produce story packages in New Orleans.

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