Tools for Cross Browser Compatibility: Live Testing
It should be enough to write standards-compliant, validating code (as set forth by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)) and have it render the same in all browsers. But, alas, browser makers choose to release their software without supporting all 'features' of HTML or CSS versions, or they simply interpret the standards differently. Others create proprietary code that works only with their browser; so, it is important for a Web developer to be certain that it degrades gracefully, when used.
Browser compatibility is not as bad as it was back in the day. Anyone remember those early Netscape days? Having to design a dumbed-down version of your site to support it? Well, those days are fairly well behind for desktop browsers, but differences in how well each browser supports standards still remain. And, support for portable devices (smart phones, e-pads, etc.) adds a whole new level of complexity.
Clients often do not appreciate how time-consuming/costly is cross browser testing. Moreover, especially for smaller Web businesses, configuring in-house computer systems with the many different operating systems, browser versions, and screen resolutions is overwhelming. Consider that there are hundreds of combinations! This is where the browser testing applications and services save the day. Some offer sampling by screenshot (only), while others offer remote server access for live testing. Let's look at two live testing tools: CrossBrowserTesting and BrowserCam.
With CrossBrowserTesting, you can quickly pull the desired screenshots and then launch live testing from that results page for a particular test case. The virtual testing environment is slow, so you wouldn't necessarily want to launch it straight away.
Once you are in the live testing mode, you will have desktop control of the operating system just as you would on your own computer. From there, you may choose from the installed browsers for testing.
CrossBrowserTesting's plans include a combination of screen capture and live testing service through VNC (virtual network connection). It is a paid subscription, from $19.95 - $199.95 per month, and a one-week free trial is offered. Check out their video demo to learn more.
BrowserCam is seemingly the Cadillac of live browser testing applications. Their services include browser capture, email capture, and remote access. They advertise browser capture for 400+ combinations of browsers/platforms/resolutions. Remote access is available for a variety of browsers for Windows, Apple, and Linux operating systems (including Internet Explorer 9 Beta 1 and Google Chrome 6.0.472.55). Plus, device capture is available for Blackberry, Apple, Google, and Windows. Whew!
Selecting a test browser is as easy as it looks -- simple as ticking a radio button.
Once you are logged into the remote server, you launch the desired browser applications as you would on your local computer. Remote access is slow, so expect a response time akin to dialup connectivity.
If you require a greater level of service, consider their Enterprise Plan. Services include (quoted from their website):
- Browser Capture (Priority capture queue for shortest wait times)
- Device Capture (For mobile development)
- Remote Access (With higher session time limits)
Additional Enterprise Only Capabilities:
- Automated cross-browser issue identification using patent pending RenderInspector technology
- Script screen captures & transactions using Selenium-IDE
- Perform automated link and content validation
- Ensure mobile readiness with in-depth page analysis
- Test on over 5,000+ mobile device profiles
- Test sites behind the firewall
- Schedule screen capture jobs in advance
- Access 24-hour phone support
BrowserCam offers individual plans for browser capture, email capture, remote access, and combo platters of all. Plan options include multi-user accounts, which makes the service very affordable for a group. Their plans range from $19.95 (one-day use) to $89.95 per month for a premium plan. (Call for Enterprise Plan pricing.) They offer a free trial for capture plans only, but do extend a money-back guarantee if you are not satisfied.
Live browser testing services are the way to go, if your budget allows. It really is up to Web developers to push for cross browser compatibility testing as a standard expense for any project. But, if your budget constraints don't allow for such a "luxury", consider using one of the free screen capture applications. Read "Tools for Cross Browser Compatibility: Screenshot Sampling" to learn more.
Tyme is a freelance writer and multimedia specialist of many years. She likes walks in the park, cotton candy, and baby ducks. To learn more: MultimediaByTyme.com.