When you want a new website you’ll hear your marketing agency talking about the imagery in terms of GIFs and JPEGs. But what does it all mean? What is the difference? Which one is the best to provide? GIF and JPEG images are widely used on websites but each has different uses. Here’s a short guide to take you through the minefield of imagery.

Let’s begin with the technical information. A GIF, pronounced with a soft ‘G,’ stands for Graphics Interchange Format, and was established by CompuServe in 1987. As GIFs do not lose as much quality as JPEGs when compressed, they are popular on websites for logos and graphic s with areas of block colour as the picture quality will be sharp. GIFs can also be used for animation so are useful on websites if you have any moving banners or graphics. As a GIF is limited to 256 colours, it is not usually used in digital photography. This is where a JPEG comes in.

The name ‘JPEG’ pronounced jay-peg stands for Joint Photographic Experts Group – the name of the committee that created the JPEG format. A JPEG file is best for photographs which will vary in tone and colour. As a JPEG can show 16 million colours, it is the most common file format of a digital camera. For use on a website, JPEGs are very popular especially where the bandwidth is important, as it can reduce file sizes to about 5% of their original size. JPEGs are not recommended for line drawings or images which include text. In this case you would want to supply your marketing agency with a GIF file.

This should help you on your way to providing the most useful image file to your marketing agency. The key thing to remember that a GIF is for drawings, text and sometime animation, and a JPEG is for photographs or more detailed images.