Meet the duo of Max Shaw (left) and Mark Tanner (right), two roommates living in New York and the founders of GifJif; the self-proclaimed best GIF app in the App Store.
GifJif is an app that allows you to customize GIFs with your own face as seen above. With GifJif, you can recreate classic movie scenes, memorable sports events, and the most iconic pop culture moments all with your face instead and in a GIF.
We caught up with Mark and Max to get the story behind the app that can turn anyone into a content creating king.
coiski: How did the idea behind GifJif come about?
Mark: GifJif really just came about after a day of work when I arrived home I was thinking it would be cool if everyday people could put themselves in movie scenes and sporting events. Like how cool would it be for you to put your face in some of the moments you’ve seen your favorite athletes in? I talked with Max, did my research, and came to the conclusion that there wasn’t really any other app like the idea we had.
Max: We started seeing more and more custom GIFs on big branded Twitter accounts and we wanted to give that same ability to the masses. We knew that the bigger companies had a person responsible for handcrafting all of the GIFs so we wanted to make that process easy for anyone to do.
coiski: Is GIF pronounced GIF or GIF?
Mark: Haha, I pronounce it as Jif, with a “j”.
Max: GIF! Hard G.
coiski: When was the moment you decided to turn the idea into a reality?
Max: I built a prototype of a single animated GIF in Photoshop. So taking a face and putting it on a GIF. It was very time consuming to move the face on each frame in the GIF. We then sent it around to some friends and people loved it. That validated that the idea could work and we decided to launch the app. Also, I realized how annoying this was to do for each GIF.
Mark: We launched in March 2016 and slowly but surely have been adding features and new GIFs ever since. When we first launched the app we started with 50 GIFs in the app and now we’re over 2,000. We’ve gotten extremely better since we first launched. It’s been really fun and people seem to enjoy it.
coiski: What are your goals with GifJif?
Max: GifJif is really just a fun side project. Personally, I enjoy these side projects because I can learn new technical skills. For GifJif, I learned a lot about image processing and swift developer as well as server side development.
Mark: Truthfully, we just like that people download it. As long as there is a steady stream of downloads, we’re going to keep doing GifJif. It would be cool to sell it to a big company one day. In the content creation space, there are so many websites that are doing really fun and interesting things and a tool like this would be cool to give that ability to their audience. But for the time being our goal is to just get as many downloads as possible and make the app experience as enjoyable as possible
coiski: Have you had a “Wow, people actually use and like our app,” moment? What was it?
Max: I have these moments all the time. Basically anytime I see a tweet with our logo it’s still pretty crazy. Especially, when I don’t know the person whose posting it.
Mark: There are two moments that stick out to me. The first time I made a GifJif myself in the app. I put my face on someone that was beating up another guy who I put my friend’s face on and I was just laughing thinking to myself how hilarious this was. I sent it in my group message and they all wanted to know how to do it. The second moment was the first time we saw people on Twitter using the app with the watermark. That was a “We made it” moment.
coiski: Do you have a social media strategy?
Mark: On Twitter, as crazy as it is, the strategy is to reply to big accounts because people are always trolling through replies. Twitter is really good for live events and the best part of our app is we can create content quicker than anyone else. Our strategy is to do two things. Find people using GifJif to help them with the app and to post engaging tweets. We don’t want to bother people too much, but we want people to know that there is an app that they can use to create funny stuff. Oh and we like trolling Skip Bayless.
You need a new bit pic.twitter.com/Aqt2uy0V89
— GifJif (@GifJifApp) April 8, 2017
coiski: How do you find people using GifJifs on Twitter?
Mark: Sometimes people tag us in their GifJif posts. Sometimes we just see big sports accounts that we follow using them. We’ve randomly stumbled upon them sometimes. One time we posted a tweet telling people to show us their best GifJifs and we’ll give them a follow, so now we kind of curated a timeline of people we know that use GifJifs.
coiski: What do the different costs within the app get users?
Mark: The app costs $.99. With that, you get access to 2,000+ GIFs and the ability to add any faces including our preloaded faces. For $2.00 you can add the meme feature. For $10.00 you can remove the GifJif watermark. That one is big for content creators because now they can remove our watermark and create content that looks like it’s theirs.
coiski: Do the current amount of downloads exceed your initial expectations?
Max: Yes, definitely. The initial amount of downloads we have gotten was solid but nothing crazy. I’ve been more impressed with our ability to maintain solid downloads over time. That’s the hardest part of the app store. The main reason we’ve been able to maintain relevance is Mark’s Twitter game. Having tweets go viral leads to more downloads of the app.
Mark: The amount of downloads is far more than expected. It definitely fluctuates based on our tweets. After our Wendy’s tweet, we saw a nice uptick in downloads. We just try to make sure that every single day someone is visiting the app there is new features and new content to enjoy.
— GifJif (@GifJifApp) March 30, 2017
coiski: What is your favorite part about the app?
Max: My favorite part of the app is seeing how much people love it. We don’t have the biggest user base but some of the unprompted reviews we get from our power users is awesome to see.
Mark: Seeing people enjoying it, using it, or engaging with it makes the whole thing worth it. If only one person ever used GifJif and posted it on Twitter it would be worth it for that. We don’t need a ton of validation. One person using it the way we wanted is cool enough and it never gets old. Every single time I see someone using it is exciting and we’ve seen people do some crazy stuff with the app that we would have never thought of. As long as we can give people the tools to help them make what they want to make, that’s exciting for us.
coiski: What is the hardest part about maintaining the app?
Max: The hardest part is just staying motivated. When you see a few bad download days it is pretty easy to lose motivation and think about what is next. I’m always excited by new projects which can be a distraction.
coiski: What type of feedback are you getting from users?
Max: Our users are very vocal. Generally, they want new GIFs or want an Android version. I don’t know Android development so that makes the possibility of an Android version pretty difficult.
Mark: The feedback has been great. We’re always looking to improve the app and people are constantly hitting us up with ideas for new features that they want. When my mom who usually hates the stuff that we do tells me that she uses the app from time to time that’s when you know it’s good.
coiski: What is your favorite GIF?
Mark: I love anything that trolls Skip Bayless.