Everyone has their favourite browser – be it the default installed on the home computer or one of the newer and more modern browsers like Firefox. As webdesigners – we have no influence over how our sites will be accessed (no matter how much we wish we had…). And of course, we work towards ensuring our sites not only work across all required browsers but also look professional. We have no choice but to take into consideration the different viewing platforms. This could be any of the different browsers on a desktop or laptop computer, or one of the mobile browsers and now also other browsers found on games platforms. In addition – the screensize, resolution and functionality needs to be planned for as well.
When it comes to the browsers however, luckily, there are tools available which will allow you to monitor various aspects of your website’s traffic, such as the number of visitors, pages viewed as well as which applications are accessing your site. Usually, you can find these statistics via your hosting package — or you can use free tools such as Google Analytics, as shown in the screenshot below.
Ideally, we’d all like to have a full test suite available – but this might not always be possible. This is where the online options for browser testing come to the rescue. There are quite a few options out there and it will be worth your time to check out what’s available (see the articles listed below for links and more info). Personally, I’ve now settled on the ones listed below so here are my top 3 online browser testing tools.
- bowser shots
One of the oldest free services around – browsershots allows you to select from a vast list of browsers and browser versions and then presents screenshots of your site in those browsers. During busy times this process can take a few minutes but usually you will be able to view the first screenshots very quickly.
- Adobe Browserlab
Adobe offers their own version of a browser testing suite – you will need to sign up for an Adobe ID first and sign in (same as for Kuler, the colour theme generator). Browserlab offers a list of browsers and different viewing modes which make it easy to find and identify discrepancies. Best of all – the results are shown in real time which make this one of the most effective tools around.
- IE NetRenderer
A utility reserved for the sole purpose of testing your website in the dreaded IE, very fast in delivery of screenshots.
These are of course my personal choices with many more available. So here are a few useful articles which will point you elsewhere:
- browsers on quirksmode.org
PPK’s famous site, amazing amount of in depth information of various browser bugs
- How to Build the Best Browser Test Suite on sitepoint.com
good article covering online tools as well as discussing how to install multiple versions of browsers
- Browser Tests, Services and Compatibility Test Suites on smashingmagazine.com
excellent article discussing useful tools to work towards cross-browser compatibility