Posted by Roger

Testing, testing, testing

Website testing on mobile phones

Not the most interesting or glamorous work, but absolutely essential in any web project. Five years ago, testing websites was quite straightforward as sites were designed to run on larger screens only so it was just a matter of looking at the site on a few desktop browsers and checking all was OK – maybe a few hours work.

Nowadays, with the tremendous rise in the use of mobile phones, tablets and other devices for browsing the internet, testing has become a much more complex and time consuming task - and a much more important task.

Testing Appearance, Layout and Function

If you stop to think how many different types of device people now use to access the internet, you will appreciate one aspect of the complexity. It’s not just iPhone, iPad, Android phone, Mac, Windows etc, but different versions of each of these. There are still plenty of people who use an iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 as well as the newer iPhone 6. The same is true of Android, where there are also multiple versions in common use. True again of Windows PC, Macs etc. Every type of device has several versions of its operating system in use by a significant proportion of users. Many of these devices have different screen sizes so the layout has to be checked to ensure it displays properly on each. Lots to test.

Then there are the browsers – Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Internet Explorer and Safari. Fortunately not every browser runs on every platform but a Windows PC and an Android device could run most of these browsers. And then, of course, there are multiple older versions in common use. This is particularly true of Internet Explorer and Safari.

Sadly, not all browsers/devices follow the standards in the same way, so a web page that looks great and works well on an a Samsung Galaxy S4 running Chrome version 40 may not look as expected on an iPhone 5 running Safari. As web developers we aim to compensate for these differences when we create pages but still, unusual and unexpected ‘features’ of operating systems and browsers can arise and cause problems.

I’m sure you will now appreciate the level of complexity involved in testing a website as it has to look right and run smoothly on all of these combinations.


websites must be tested on a wide range of mobile devices

So, how do we approach this Herculean task? Do we have rooms full of every mobile phone, tablet, Mac, laptop, etc. and run the website on every one of them till we’re satisfied that everything works? No, that would be completely impractical, clearly.

Instead, we subscribe to services on the internet that allow us to connect to a huge range of devices where we can test a website. These devices are located all over the world and we can select which ones we want to work with, load the website and then interact with the device as if it were on the desk in front of us. This is a fantastic service and allows us to check layout and function or websites across many devices.

We don’t test every possible combination – it’s simply not practical for us to do so. Instead we choose the most popular combinations. Our current list of test combinations is:

  • Apple iPhone and iPad, current and three earlier versions of the operating system (iOS) using Safari, Chrome and Firefox
  • Apple Mac - Snow Leopard, Mountain Lion and Mavericks operating systems using Safari, Chrome and Firefox
  • Android phone and Android tablet, current and three earlier versions of the operating system using the native browser, Chrome and Firefox
  • Windows 8.1 (Chrome, Internet explorer 11, Firefox, Opera)
  • Windows 8.0 (Chrome, Internet explorer 10, Firefox, Opera)
  • Windows 7 (Chrome, Internet explorer 9, Firefox, Opera)

We can test other platforms if a client has a specific need for that.

That’s a lot of testing but to be able to ensure that the websites we deliver are first class and work properly on a wide range of devices, this testing phase is essential.

That covers testing of layout and function but what about performance, i.e. the speed with which pages load on different devices and networks? I have written about the importance of page load speed before but will leave performance testing to a future article.

Are you confident that your website looks as it should and that it works properly on all the different devices that it could be seen on? If not, we’d be happy to test it out for you and make any amendments needed. Drop us a line if you’re interested.

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