Trends on Tuesday: Avoid the Testing Black Hole

Various mobile devices showcase the responsive design of Usability.gov

Remember the Golden Age of Web development? A time long ago when there were only five desktop browsers to support, a few different screen sizes and every user connected via broadband? Well, those days are over. With the advent of mobile Web implementations like responsive Web design, there are three times the number of browsers working on many different-sized devices with varying operating systems and connection speeds. Trying to tackle all of these factors quickly becomes a testing nightmare.

Developer Tom Maslen outlines some ways for developers to “test smart” so that they don’t have to test every device every time they want to update a website:

  • Take advantage of similarities between browsers and devices. If some code works on a Samsung Galaxy S4 running Chrome, then it probably also works on an Android tablet or iPhone 5S.
  • Don’t think of testing as a single task; break it up into groups of browsers. Analytics will show which group of browsers and devices make up the majority of your traffic; test those first.
  • Maximize your test matrix. The point of grouping is to get the most out of testing as few devices as possible. Your first group should test as many different properties, including screen size, connection speed, pixel density, interaction style, similarity to other browsers, and browser rendering mode.
  • Balance the amount of testing required with the testing resources available. While testing services are great at showing what your website looks like, they will never be as good as testing your code on actual devices.

Still feeling overwhelmed? Don’t be. Luckily, feds have another way to get testing on multiple devices and platforms. The DigitalGov Federal Crowdsource Mobile Testing Program is a free service that allows agencies needing mobile Web testing to get help from volunteers with multiple devices and platforms. The program is hosting a Digital Government University webinar this Thursday, September 25th at 2 pm EST. Listen in and learn the benefits of participating in the program from testing director David Fern at the Social Security Administration, as well as from volunteer testers and agency program managers who have had their mobile Web prototypes tested.

Sign up now!

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