The Practical Uses of Giphy in Software Testing

Daniel Manley
Dec 10, 2018 · 6 min read

The fabled meme is an internet phenomenon. If you have browsed the internet and visited any Social Network, you will almost certainly have seen one. The term was first coined by British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and is based on a shortening of the Greek term mimeme which means “to imitate” or “mime”, and was used by Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene to explain the way cultural information spreads [1]. The modern definition of the word Meme is far different from the word first used by Dawkins. The concept of the Internet Meme wasn’t proposed until a Wired article by Mike Godwin in 1993 [2] and it is from here that the idea spread and the Internet Meme began to infiltrate the social hangouts of the Internet.

In the early 2000’s the Meme began to boom thanks to its use across such sites as 4Chan, MySpace and eventually Reddit whereby it became a staple method with which to communicate. In recent years the meme has grown and morphed and alongside the traditional static image memes we have seen a growing trend toward the use of GIFs.

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GIFs

A GIF (Graphics Interchange Format) is a bitmap image format first designed by a team at bulletin board provider CompuServe in 1987 [3]. A GIF is in effect a digital flipbook of images that infinitely loop. After coming close to extinction in the early 2000s, the GIF has seen something of a renaissance in recent years with immense growth in its use on the Internet. Large libraries of searchable GIFs such as Giphy and Tumblr exist, making it incredibly easy to find the exact GIF you’re looking for. These GIF libraries have recently been implemented into Social Network sites such as Facebook and Twitter leading to widespread use. If something in the news or sport has gone viral it will often be most shared in GIF form.

GIFs are beginning to make their way into the working world as well. At BuildEmpire we use the popular team messaging application Slack to communicate internally, and included in the suite of apps installed on Slack is Giphy. This Slack application allows you to enter the command /giphy followed by your search term. This then searches Giphy for a GIF matching your search term and displays it in the messaging window. This is a fun piece of functionality and due to the random nature of the application (and the lack of GIF preview) as it can throw up some weird and wacky GIF choices. This is all well and good and provides some office fun, but surely there could be a more practical use for the Giphy library/application?

A Constructive Use…

As a Test Analyst for BuildEmpire, my job entails thoroughly testing the websites and applications we are building for our clients. I am responsible for raising any bugs I find, and a key part of that element of my job is providing the developer(s) working on the project with enough information and detail so that they can understand, replicate and ultimately fix the bugs I am raising. Test Evidence, therefore, forms a vital part of the work I do and so I’m constantly looking for ways to improve the evidence I capture and make it as useful for the consumer as possible. The question remains however — what practical uses does a platform primarily used for the sharing and creation of memes have in a testing environment? Well that’s where Giphy Capture comes in…….

Giphy Capture

In 2016 popular GIF library site Giphy launched their own GIF creating tool [4]— Giphy Capture. This tool allows you to directly capture your screen and the interaction that takes place on it. This makes the tool incredibly useful for capturing sporting moments or clips of funny videos for quick GIF upload and social media sharing, but I realised that I could make use of its functionality in my Test Evidence capturing, so I tested it out.

When you first boot up Giphy Capture you see a green semi-transparent frame, a record button, and a settings cog. This frame can then be resized to capture as much of your screen as you need it to and once you hit record Giphy begins to record everything within said frame. Once you’ve finished recording you can crop the GIF as you wish before getting the option to save as an MP4 or as a GIF.

You then have a series of customisable options which allow you to change things such as the loop-type which can be changed from “normal” to “reverse” or “ping-pong”. The app then also allows you to define the Pixel Size and Frame Rate you wish you use when saving your GIF or MP4. Another useful feature, particularly when using to record Test Evidence is the ability to add and edit captions and effects. In the caption section of the application you are able to type a caption of your choice, place it where you like within the GIF and can then specify the style and size of text, when in the GIF it appears and then the animation style with which it appears. This is very helpful when trying to point out specific sections of a piece of Test Evidence that may be missed on first viewing.

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Adding a caption in Giphy Capture

I have already begun to use this on projects I am currently working on and have found it to be a very useful tool when it comes to reviewing the bugs I have raised in team meetings or in storypointing sessions. It can sometimes be difficult to accurately describe a behaviour, or show it in a static screenshot, so having the ability to capture my screen and then relay that to the team has been very useful thus far.

…For Example…

An example GIF showing our very own BuildEmpire site in use can be seen below:

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Then, as you’re capturing what’s on your screen you can use built-in browser developer tools or sites such as Browserstack to emulate mobile devices and capture behaviours that may not be acting in the desired responsive manner, or by the intended design. Personally I have already captured a few bugs this way and it makes for a much more effective way of capturing certain behaviours that would be difficult to describe or less intuitive if captured as a series of static images.

I hope through this article I have helped prove that the humble GIF has more practical uses outside of funny clips and memes. If it’s not something you’re using already in your testing processes, I hope it’s something you will consider moving forward. The feedback I have received internally has been very good so far and in the projects I’m working on we’re already finding it very useful.

Give it a go, I would love to hear your thoughts!

Sources:

[1] Dawkins, Richard (1989), The Selfish Gene (2 ed.), Oxford University Press, p. 192, ISBN 978–0–19–286092–7,

[2] Godwin, Mike (October 1994). “Meme, Counter-meme”. Wired.

[3] “Graphics Interchange Format, Version 87a”. W3C. 15 June 1987.

[4] Seppala, Timothy J (August 2016) https://www.engadget.com/2016/08/25/giphy-capture-app-update

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