Mobile Testing: "It has to work on HOW many devices?"

Beacon Blog Article

By Beacon News | Published January 6, 2012 | Categories: Google Analytics

One of the many competencies here at Beacon that we take pride in is cross-browser compliance:  ensuring that a site looks the same in all of the mainstream browsers.  This task is not for the faint of heart:  there are nine browsers that we support across two operating systems.  It's difficult to satisfy every browser's different quirks, all while new versions of browsers are rolling out at a mind-boggling rate.  That's just for know, those huge, clunky things that can't fit into your pocket?  The things that now your two year-old beats on as a toy, while the precious iPad is kept safely out of harm's way?

Enter mobile devices.  You know, that thing that we can't live without?  The thing that, if left at home, warrants a 180 in the middle of the road to go back and get (but leaving behind your wallet is OK)?  In fact, in a recently survey, 90% of Americans said they would rather lose their wallet than their mobile.  Don't worry, I'm not making fun of anyone.  Just ask my wife:  I carry mine around with me like I depend on its battery to live.  But it makes you think about how popular mobile devices have become.

One of our developers recently went to a conference called An Event Apart, and came back to present what she found out.  It started a spirited discussion among the development team about just how popular mobile has become.  13% of all web traffic is now mobile.  People buy stuff from their phone.  They use it as a GPS.  25% of mobile owners don't even own a clunky desktop anymore:  it's either a tablet or a phone (or in my case, both).

Given the facts, your Web site must function properly on all mobile devices.  Recently while testing a new mobile site that we've developed, it got me thinking:  just how many devices does that mean, exactly?  That exact stat doesn't seem to exist, but this one is real:  there were an estimated 5.6 billion mobile users in 2011, and there are predictions that number will hit 8 billion by 2016.

Also, you have to consider this:  on more modern smartphones, there are several browsers that can be installed.

So how do you handle that as a business?  How can you test your site on every device out there, and on every possible browser that can be installed on that device?  The answer is, you can't.  You basically need to nail the most popular ones.  According to StatCounter at the writing of this blog, the most popular are:


  • Google Android
  • Safari
  • Microsoft IE for Mobile
  • Blackberry Browser


  • Opera Mobile
  • Opera Mini
  • Skyfire
  • Firefox Mobile
  • Dolphin HD
  • S60 Web Browser

But wait:  on desktops/laptops, Firefox or Chrome can look different on a PC vs. a Mac.  Won't, say, Dolphin look different on an Android vs. iPhone?

Let's get to work!

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