Browser Testing: A BrowserCam walk-through
October 14th, 2009 | Industry
Your website exists to be seen. When you build a website you want it to work for as many people as possible. Sadly, not everyone uses a modern browser so it is vital to test your site – especially if the target demographic includes large corporations (who may have no choice which browser they use) or people less likely to be upgrading their software (Google discovered that many people don’t even know what a browser is, so they took it upon themselves to educate them).
Using Debut Creative’s modest traffic as an example you can see I am getting traffic from a very wide array of browsers.
Google Analytics will even go so far as to break down the versions of said browsers. Amazingly, not only am I still getting IE6 traffic, but also IE 5.5.
Until about 8 months ago I was keeping an old XP box around for my IE6 testing. This made for great exercise up and down stairs, but wasn’t entirely practical. Using some relatively new web apps I’ve been able to streamline this process.
To make IE6 testing a little easier I started using Adobe Browserlab. This tool easily allows you to test the most popular browsers (a couple versions of IE, Firefox and a Safari build). While this tool is a keeper, and pretty fast, it doesn’t have the range of features I was looking for.
Alternatively there was BrowserShots which featured a lot more browser tests – but with wait times up to half an hour, alterations and tweaks were taking way too long to test practically (not to mention the point-against for the blinding number of ads).
Enter BrowserCam. I first heard of it when @Plasticmind tweeted out an invitation to join the rather expensive service as a group to shave down the cost. The deal was too good to pass up! Here is a quick walk-through of the process of testing a site.
First, you create a site-profile to perform captures on; this can be several page if you like (it’s way to easy to make a capture list that is out of hand though). A huge win off the bat is the ability to select mulitples in resolution, as well as “full page” which allows you to scroll – not just view “above the fold”.
So as a testing tool goes, Browsercam is everything I wanted – but there’s more, oh so much more. Remote Access! After a few clicks (I chose not to install a VNC at this point) I was able to directly play with my website on another OS (in this case OSX 10.5 I think).
Loading time I can load pretty much all the browsers I showed selected in the image above in less than 10 minutes, but if you’re just doing a short test of a couple it could be as quick as 30 seconds. If you’re problem solving just a key browser that’s good enough.
No wonder BrowserCam comes with such a hefty annual price tag. It’s very practical when you consider what it might cost to run machines with every version of OS / browser involved. I really want to see this service evolve though. There might be some easier to absorb output format; maybe like a multipage PDF.
These tests are invaluable for making your site look as good as possible for as many viewers as possible. Of course, I should point out that the website doesn’t have to look exactly the same in every browser (http://dowebsitesneedtobeexperiencedexactlythesameineverybrowser.com/).
Browser testing takes time, but is almost always going to have a good return. With Microsoft supporting IE6 until 2012 you can be sure that this extra step is going to continue to be popular.