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Nomad Device Lab

I'm very happy to announce the launch of Nomad Device Lab. It's a side project of mine, which I'm running and organising as a community service. The Nomad Device Lab is a travelling, curated, collection of mobile devices that helps you to do practical and efficient testing.

Back in April, when I saw Jeremy Keith set up a Test Lab at ClearLeft in Brighton, I thought it was a genius idea and knew that Cape Town needed something similar. In the months that followed, a number of other labs have cropped up around the world. I've been talking to a lot of very smart people about the lab over the past few months, and from that and my own research, I decided to approach the lab idea a little differently.


Being a one man operation, I don't have a space suitable for hosting a lot of visitors, or for putting aside somewhere that can serve permanently as the lab. So, I introduced the travelling element: the lab can move around to places that do have the space and capacity.

I'm putting up some of my own money to get this thing started: I've booked a large-ish room at the Bandwidth Barn for two sessions of the lab: one on Tuesday 25 September 2012 from 2pm – 5pm and another on Tuesday 9 October 2012 from 2pm – 5pm. If you'd like to come and use the lab, I'd love to have you there. Use of the lab is free, but Space is limited, so please let me know if you'd like to come.

In the longer run, I need your help. If you run or work in a web development or design house, it would be fantastic if you would host the lab for a session. You can make it as big or as small as you like. If I know you and you're in the industry: expect an email from me soon!

I'll be keeping a public schedule of the sessions on the Nomad site, and posting the dates to @NomadDeviceLab on Twitter. The twitter account will also be posting device lab-related links.

Mobile devices

I've used "mobile devices" as a shorthand for anything that isn't a traditional desktop computer, such as smartphones. Although I'm very interested in all the new, weird, containers that the Internet will flow into, it's unlikely that the lab will be featuring web-enabled toasters and fridges.

What will be in the lab is a mix of personal, portable, web-enabled devices: feature phones, smartphones, and tablets, and new things that we haven't thought of yet.

Curated collection

This is perhaps the most important feature, and a bit of a departure from many of the other labs out there. The devices in the Nomad Device Lab are carefully selected to cover a wide range of operating systems, screen sizes, input methods, and so on. While testing on as many devices as possible would be ideal testing on a large number of devices can be impractical or even not possible under budget constraints. This is especially true for smaller businesses such as myself. Since we can only test on a small number of devices, we should make sure that they cover as broad a spread as possible.

Although the selection represents what the market looks like at the moment, it's important to test on all of them and not just a few, or to focus on specific devices. This is about approaching development and design with a Future Friendly mindset: what we want is long term functional support, with optimisation for the devices that support it.

You can read more about the selection process, the reasoning behind it, and what's in the lab at the moment on the Lab page of the site.

Practical and efficient testing

The curated collection helps with practicality and efficiency, but that's not all: more testing means more learning, and avoiding the same mistakes or troubles next time. Doing the testing as a group means sharing of knowledge and fixes.

Part of what really appeals to me about all these labs springing up is the community side: the sharing of resources and knowledge. As the Nomad Device Lab sessions progress, I want to contribute as much as I can to resources such as Scott Jehl's Device Bugs list, and Brad Frost's recent This is Responsive, and I hope that others will too.

Having and contributing to these shared resources is a winning situation for all involved. We can produce better work, faster, and make our clients even happier.

Attend or host a session

If you're interested in attending a session please get in touch. If you can host a session: even better! I look forward to hearing from you.