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Mo' devices, mo' problems

The number of internet-connected devices in the world is increasing at an alarming rate. There are about ten in my house of two people, and the devices have wildly varying degrees of connectivity, usefulness, and physical size. I think the future friendly folk have got it right when they say: disruption will only accelerate.


In an ideal world, we would test on every device to see that everything works fine. Time and cost make this impractical, though.
(By testing on every device, I don't mean matching up the design exactly or even providing an identical experience. Expecting a web site to look and feel identical on a smartphone and a television, for example, is somewhat like expecting a movie to look and feel the same watching it on a laptop on a plane as watching it in a crowded cinema. The two will be different experiences, but still essentially the same movie.)


So, what can we do? Test as much as we can, on as many devices as we can.
We can't pick up every problem and every error, but each one we do find helps us learn more about things to look out for, and help us build more robust sites.
There are a number of services like Perfecto Mobile that offer remote testing of a large bank of mobile devices. They're not cheap, though, and I think that actual physical testing trumps remote testing.


Here are a few links to articles that make me think more about this.

  • An old-ish article, but still a good one is Peter-Paul Koch, "Smartphone Browser Landscape" on A List Apart.

    In this article, I’ll give you an overview of the mobile web market, as well as phone platforms and their browsers, so that you can decide which mobile devices to test on. Then, we’ll look at how to set up a mobile test bed.

  • A more recent article by Stephanie Rieger, "On designing content-out (a response to Zeldman and others)" reminds us that emulators and rough-and-ready browser resizing isn't quite good enough:

    Testing on devices reveals all sorts of stuff that simply adjusting content never will, and that you won’t see by simply testing by resizing a desktop browser.

  • Finally, Brad Frost's "test on real mobile devices without breaking the bank" gives some good, practical, real world advice on setting up a test suite.

    Mobile is the future of the web, so it’s time to start investing in some mobile devices. Testing on actual devices is now an absolutely essential part of web design.


I'm still reviewing my options. As a one man show, I don't have a large budget to buy lots of devices just for testing purposes. I have to rely on emulators to some degree.
I don't currently own any Android devices, or Nokia, or a Blackberry, but I'm looking at Pay As You Go options for getting more devices, and still having access to phone networks for testing.

I'd love to hear people's thoughts on this. Sound off in the comments, or drop me a mail.