Annette Fowler

Pre-launch testing

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I’ve spent the last two weeks system testing a large ecommerce site that we are about to launch.  Testing is a vitally important phase of a project here at Beacon and something we don’t take at all lightly!  We usually build a minimum oftwo weeks into the time line for internal testing and two weeks for client testing, if the project plan can possibly accommodate it.

Don’t forget the following steps when doing your own site testing:

  • Test in multiple browsers– It is not good enough to view the site in the browser that you, or your developers, most prefer.  You MUST view the site as your customers will see it, and unfortunately different browsers (and versions of browsers!!) can produce massively different results.  Based on current browser statistics, Beacon currently system tests the entire site in Internet Explorer 6, Internet Explorer 7, Internet Explorer 8, Firefox 2, Firefox 3, Opera and Safari.  Though Beacon tests the site with actual installs of each browser on separate computers, you can also consider using a browser emulator like, though be aware that the simulations aren’t always “perfect”.  For even more info on cross-browser compliance testing, please see my co-worker’s blog on the subject.
  • Test the site without Flash enabled– If your site uses Flash animation at all, you need to test how it will function without that plug-in enabled.  All Flash players should display a static image and warning to download Flash if it is disabled or an older version.
  • Test the site without JavaScript enabled– If JavaScript is required for your site to function correctly (make sure search engine bots will still be able to crawl it!), at least inform the visitor with a message if the browser detects that it is disabled.  javascript message
  • Test the print view of the site– It is always helpful to the visitor that wants to print a page of your site, if you provide them with a “print-friendly” view that doesn’t waste a lot of ink and paper on navigation, background images, etc. that they won’t need in a printed copy.
  • Make sure the logo in the site-wide header links to the home page– This has become an industry standard but is sometimes forgotten
  • Check for accessibility (minimally alt tags on all images) and 508 compliance, if required– Not all sites require these standards, but don’t abandon visitors that use non-traditional methods of browsing the web (like screen-readers)!  Use and as guides.
  • Check to see if the order of tab entry in forms makes sense– Not all customers will use their mouse to click through a form.  Make sure that if they choose to use the “tab” key to navigate from field to field, that the order makes sense.
  • Make sure all external links and PDF files open in a new browser window– Don’t you hate it when you finally find the info you need on a site in a PDF and when you are done reading it and close, the site disappears?  Prevent this by always opening links to other sites and internal PDF files in a new browser window so that your site stays open in the background.

With these tips and, most importantly, devoting time and effort to testing, I hope that you will have a very successful site launch!


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  • By Pre-launch testing and on October 25, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    […] turns out that I feel so strongly about this topic that I even wrote a blog about pre-launch testing a few of years ago.  Though web technology has advanced since then (particularly in the mobile space), the basics are […]