3.16.2009

Cross-Browser Testing Methods

Hassle Free Website Browser Testing

Since the early days of the web when Bill Gates made Internet Explorer the default browser for PC purchasers throwing Netscape for a loop, web developers have had to test their creations on multiple browsers to ensure cross-browser compatibility. Although most developers reserve a sacred spot in their hearts for the Mozilla Firefox browser, a browser sponsored by anon-profit organization that devotes its resources to promoting openness, innovation and opportunity on the Internet, the general public has yet to completely catch on. Therefore we are left with the largely ungratifying and often times tedious task of correcting our website creations in those other browsers... Internet Explorer 6, Internet Explorer 7, Internet Explorer 8 (just forget about 5 and lower- too much hassle for such a small audience), early versions of Mozilla (for the slackers that refuse to update), Opera, Safari, and optionally Google Chrome (...and sometimes others). Whoever actually 'won' the browser wars is debatable. What we can say, however, is that we do know who lost... Web Developers.

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Because of the inconvenience testing a website in all of these browsers can be, I have compiled a couple of methods for cross browser testing that increase developers efficiency and quality when conducting cross-browser tests. Check them out and be sure to Contact me if you have any additions, modifications, or even just commentary.

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  1. Browser Shots offers both a free service and a paid service for testing an awesome selection of browsers on PC's, Mac's, Linux and more. So why pay? Buying Browser Shot's service gives you priority, meaning if you don't pay, you are essentially last in line to be provided with your request. So, needless to say, the main drawback on the free browser shots service is rendering time. I put in a request for one of my personal websites to test it out a little bit for myself, and...well I am still waiting with my queue estimate being somewhere between 3 minutes and 1 hour and 30 minutes (!).
  2. IE NetRenderer offers a convenient method of testing the Internet Explorer browser, encompassing IE5.5 all the way through IE8. This is one of my faves because of its straightforward utility, and no hassle service. There is no charge for the service and your screenshot shows up fairly rapidly. Drawback: NetRenderer only gives you a screenshot of the browser, so interactivity and usability testing is pretty much out of the question.
  3. For testing a website in Mac browsers be sure to check out Browsr Camp, which tests with with the latest versions of 12 different Mac OS X browsers. Drawbacks: this baby costs money, even if it is only $3 for a two day pass or a $99 year long pass - and although you can test Safari 3.1.2 for free, the website I chose to test showed up flawed in the screenshot for some reason... It also only entails the most recent versions of the Mac OSX browsers, leaving out the previous versions that many people still have. Either way, however, Browsr Camp's rendering speed still makes this program pretty sweet.
  4. Xenocode Browser Sandox could be considered the free alternative to Browsr Camp. Despite being less browser inclusive (Xenocode only tests for Internet Explorer 8, 7, and 6, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, Opera, and Google Chrome), it still covers the primary browsers necessary for testing and even features multiple versions of IE. The main drawback with Xenocode is its incompatibility with Mac users.
  5. Another good PC freebie is IE Tester which allows PC users to download the program to test all relevant versions of the IE browser on both Windows and XP. Again, the drawback with this program is its incompatibility with Macs.
  6. For more browser testing programs that cost money, check out Web Worker Daily's recommendations.

Until the day comes that all browsers unite their standards principles, functional capabilities, and visual interpretations, we must cope by utilizing the cross-browser testing methods listed above. Oh- and if you are viewing this on IE, please do me a solid and download Mozilla. Trust me, it's for your own good.

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