Heal Your Church WebSite

Teaching, rebuking, correcting & training in righteous web design.

How to test your site across multiple browsers

Before you write a single line of HTML, before you render curved menu tabs using CSS, before you Flashinate your users with slideshows … remember one thing: unless you’re designing a church website for a bunch of over-clocked, Mac-inspired, graphic artists then your users’ browsing platform, configuration and/usage isn’t the same as yours. Probably not even close.

My apologies for the artistic license applied to FTPOnline author Terrence O’Donnell who quoted, David S. Platt, president of Rolling Thunder Computing as saying:

“Unless you’re writing programs for a bunch of burned out computer geeks, your user isn’t you. … This is very hard to get through somebody’s head; it’s very hard to get rid of this notion that what you like your user is going to like … Again, your user is not you”

Yet both statements ring true. Let me spell that out in case you didn’t the gist of what I said the first two times, this time in the logical stylings of modus tollens:

  1. If your users were exactly like you, they’d configure their computer exactly like you
  2. Your users are not exactly like you
  3. Therefore, your users do not own a computer configured exactly like yours

Putting this logical truth into action, we are faced with the dilemma:

If my users are not me, and their configuration not like mine, how do I insure my users’ browser renders my church’s web site similar to mine?

Good question, glad you asked – especially as the answer is easy as cake:

  • Test, testing, and yet more testing. In this case, testing across as many browser platforms as possible.

How do I cross-browser test thee you ask? Let me count the ways:

  • The hard wayinstall and manage multiple operating systems with multiple browsers, made a bit easier via commercial products such as VMWare or MS Virtual PC.
  • The even harder way – download and install as many browsers as you can, mangling your registry (for those on Windows) as often as you need, making sure you have a Mac and Linux imbued buddy do the same on theirs.
  • The easy way – let someone else sweat the details by employing a software as a service offering which usually requires you submit your URL, select the target browsers, and asks for an email address it can use to notify you when all the screenshots are done and are available online.

Yes, the hard ways are arguably less expensive – provided you either want to put your development platform through all that, or have the spare machines and bandwidth available , but the easy way does get the job done for you just as fast, often with results shareable with the rest of your crack development team located anywhere on the planet. Just like I’m about to share some screenshots of this site with you:
See Screenshots of HYCW on via SeaMonkey 1.1.2 on PLD Linux

For those who’d rather work the smart-n-easy way, here are some services you might want to consider:

a Screen Capture Service lets you submit multiple URL’s, choose the browsers and operating systems you want to see, and in about a minute returns screen captures of your webpage loaded in the different browsers and operating systems you selected. It costs $19.95 for one day, $59.95 for a month, $399.95 for a year, $999.95 for priority/premium service per year
A place to test your websites on the MacOSX platform. $3 for 2 days testing, $7 for a week, $19 for a month, $99 for a year.
a service for testing different browsers on a number of Mac, Windows and Linux platforms. About $40.41 (29.99 Euros) per month for 40 hours testing per month, about $471.50 (350 Euros) per year for 40 hours testing per month.
a free open-source online service created by Johann C. Rocholl. When you submit your web address, it will be added to the job queue. A number of distributed computers will open your website in their browser. Because it’s free, there the results aren’t instant
IE NetRenderer
allows you to check how a website is rendered by Internet Explorer 7, 6 or 5.5, as seen from a high speed datacenter located in Germany. Just type in a URL in the field above and try it out – it’s free!
a free, user-supported service developed by Dan Vine that captures and displays your web site using OS X 10.4.8 and Safari 2.0.4 (419.3)
a free, more user-supported service developed by Dan Vine that captures and displays your web site using Microsoft Internet Explorer, versions unknown at this time as the queue seems hours longin rendering
See how your entire pages look in a wide range of different web browsers, at different screen resolutions, and different color depths. You receive two screen captures for each test – one of the browser window. $9 for one day of 25 tests, $19 for week of 100 tests, $29 for a month of unlimited tests, $299 for a year. A test is one screenshot/per browser.

Personally, I’d strongly recommend either BrowserCam or SiteVist as if they’d offer a 501(c) price tier … though I did find IENetRenderer and BrowserShot got enough of the job done provided I didn’t try test against all browsers during peak times. Still, you most certainly get what you pay for in this arena.

All that said, I know some of you propeller-headed geeks out there are just champing at the bit to shoot your foot clean off … so here are a few other related articles I visited while putting this post together:

  • Link Thumbnail – a little javascript to see your site on some popular browsers
  • Taming Your Multiple IE Standalones – mangling your registry for fun and profit
  • SiteWizard – How to Check Your Website with Multiple Browsers on a Single Machine (Cross-Browser Compatibility Checking)
  • IEs4Linux is the simpler way to have Microsoft Internet Explorer running on Linux (or any OS running Wine).
  • BrowserTesting – an incutio.com discussion on ‘How do you test in many browsers?’
  • Cross browser testing using VMWare’s MultiBrowser Appliance.

Got another service or product to suggest? Share the love, leave a comment and let us know.