Craig is a Director of OptimalWorks Ltd, a UK consultancy dedicated to building award-winning websites implementing standards, accessibility, SEO, and best-practice techniques.
This article was sponsored by modern.IE. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make SitePoint possible!
Web developers understand the importance of rigorous testing on multiple mobile, tablet, and desktop browsers. We do. Honestly. It’s simply that it takes too long! There are only so many hours in a day and testing often falls far down our list of priorities. We’ll do it once we’ve implemented one more essential feature, read the latest SitePoint HTML5 article, grabbed a coffee and — oh — it’s 5pm.
Testing across multiple devices may be tedious but, the longer you leave it, the more difficult it becomes to fix the inevitable problems. You may have a great device lab or use Virtual Machines from modern.IE but the psychological jump from developer into tester mode is daunting.
Easy Multi-Device Testing
Fortunately, modern.IE has another solution for quick and dirty testing. The free screenshot automation tool powered by BrowserStack loads your site on a range of mobile and desktop devices and presents captured screens within a matter of minutes. The process is simple and painless…
Open modern.ie/screenshots in your browser:
Enter the address of a page you want to test and hit enter:
The results are generated and presented — click any thumbnail to view the full-size image. Option buttons allow you to:
- download a PDF containing all screenshots;
- share the results via email, Facebook or Twitter; and
- generate a poster of your site!
There are also links to further tools and help resources should you need them.
This article was sponsored by modern.ie. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who make SitePoint possible!
Internet Explorer remains the world’s second most-used browser with almost one in four users on the desktop. A high proportion of those are from large businesses and government agencies yet, despite the commercial opportunities, few of us devote enough time to testing IE until it’s too late. The solution is to test early and test often — especially the older browsers.
Testing IE poses a challenge; it’s available only on Windows and, even then, you can install only one version at a time. Emulators and IE’s own document modes can help but you should never trust them for anything more than basic layout checks.
A few years ago it would have been necessary to install and maintain a suite of PCs with various combinations of Windows and IE. Fortunately, we can do the same without hardware using Virtual Machines.
What are Virtual Machines?
You’ve possibly seen emulators that run old operating systems such as Amiga OS, games consoles, or arcade machines on Windows, Mac, or Linux. In essence, these are Virtual Machines (VMs) that make the original OS and software think it’s running on real hardware. In reality, it’s all happening within the host PC’s memory.
We’re not limited to old OSs — we can emulate a real PC and run any platform we desire. For example, we can run Windows XP in a VM application on Windows 8.1 so we can retain older, incompatible software. Because it’s handled as a data file, we can start, stop move or restore XP anytime we choose.
Virtual Machines therefore provide a mechanism to run any edition of Internet Explorer from a Windows, Mac or Linux host. There’s little excuse — you probably have the software already and Microsoft provide a range of free Windows/IE VMs at modern.ie.
The age of Windows XP is over. Microsoft’s most successful OS was launched on October 25, 2001 and was the first to use the stable NT kernel for both mainstream and business desktops. Starting April 8, the OS is no more. Microsoft has dropped support; you won’t receive updates or technical assistance. Software compatibility will decrease and XP will become a tempting target for criminal crackers.
Few Operating Systems reach the ripe old age of thirteen. While XP reviews were positive, the early months were problematic; it struggled on existing hardware and it took time for manufacturers to release compatible drivers. However, once those issues were eradicated, XP usage peaked at 76% in January 2007.
XP’s long life owed much to the Longhorn/Vista debacle. The next release of Windows took five years to appear and suffered a disastrous reception. Windows 7 did much to address the reputation of the OS but, by that time, people had been using XP for eight years and had grown accustom to its features and quirks. XP usage was only overtaken by Windows 7 in 2012 and, even today, almost one in five users retain the aging OS.
XP users have received plenty of warnings about it’s demise but that doesn’t mean it’ll stop working. People will continue to use XP and Office 2013 unless they have the budget and/or hardware to upgrade. The UK government has even paid $9 million for an additional twelve months of support — largely because 85% of the National Health Service still uses XP (and, somewhat shockingly, IE6).
There was little to report in last month’s browser trends Do the latest figures from StatCounter show any significant movement?…
Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, February 2014 to March 2014
The following table shows browser usage movements during the past month.
SITEPOINT (Craig Buckler): Hey Todd. Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
SITEPOINT: How did you get into conference talking?
TODD: I started doing a few smaller presentations — nothing bigger than a roomful of people — until last year when I flew out to San Francisco for HTML5 Dev Conf. While I was there, I visited a friend at Google who invited me to teach a workshop. I absolutely loved it! I wanted to do more sharing knowledge and teaching when I was contacted by Future Insights to speak at FOWD. I’ve spoken at a few meet-ups and events since last year to a variety of audiences.
SITEPOINT (Craig Buckler): Hey Paul. There are few people yet to encounter you on the web, but tell us a little about yourself and what you do?
PAUL: That question should be easy to answer but, over the years, I’ve started to find it much more difficult. It used to be simple — I was a web designer. However, it’s a long time since I have coded anything other than my own website. I keep my hand in but would be embarrassed to call myself a web designer these days.
I guess I am a business adviser or digital strategist. I help organizations do two things; adapt to the changes that digital have brought to the world and demonstrate how to use new tools to their full potential.
I achieve this either through working directly with organizations via my digital agency Headscape and by speaking and writing about the topic.
Harry Roberts helps teams all over the world to build better front ends. Craig spoke to him about his talk at Future of Web Design.
SITEPOINT (Craig Buckler): Hey Harry. Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.
HARRY: Hi there! I’m a consultant front-end architect from the UK. My work includes visiting companies of all sizes (from the likes of the BBC and the NHS right down to individuals) in all types of places (from sunny California to snowy Frankfurt) and helping them get a handle on their CSS. I do a lot of consultancy and workshops, solving company scalability woes and teaching developers how to build bigger, more performant UIs. I get to travel, meet interesting and passionate individuals, work with great companies and get paid along the way. I can’t believe my luck!
Before that, I was a Senior Developer at BSkyB for almost three years. Before that I worked at a series of digital agencies of varying sizes.
SITEPOINT: How did you get into conference talking?
HARRY: I’d been blogging and tweeting for some time when Front-Trends approached me in late 2011 and asked if I’d like to speak at their conference in Warsaw (2012). I’d never spoken anywhere before so it was a huge gamble for them but I nervously accepted. It’s carried on from there.
Despite revolutionary advances in computing, we still rely on a string of characters to authenticate users. Passwords originated hundreds of years ago and were certainly used by Roman military. In the modern era, MIT’s CTSS introduced passwords in 1961. Unfortunately, password problems are prevalent: People are predictable. Thousands use popular codes such as ‘password’, ’123456′, […]
Firefox 28 already? It’s been a full six weeks since Firefox 27 and Mozilla is back with a freshly-baked version. You can get it in one of three ways: Waiting for an auto-update; choosing About Firefox from the menu; or downloading the installer from Firefox.com.
Again, there are few obvious features for end users but we developers are more fortunate…
Developer Tool Updates
I find myself using the built-in Developer Tools more often than Firebug. While Firebug still has the edge in most areas, it can’t beat the Mozilla tools for speed and quick inspections.
Firefox 28 introduces a split console mode that allows you to use the DOM inspector, debugger, profiler etc., without having to switch back and forth to the console pane. You can see this by clicking the toggle split console icon in the top-right of the tool window.
In the final part of this series we’ll discuss agile pricing — a relatively new charging mechanism which helps prevent fixed-price and pay-per-hour problems such as:
- requirement changes
- costly delays
- unfinished or unpaid projects.
Clients want a final cost figure but can not know or appreciate every requirement. Even with a clear specification it’s difficult for developers to estimate large project schedules. Accuracy is futile when you consider that the client’s requirements will inevitably evolve.
Agile charging is based on agile development techniques but it’s not as technical as it sounds. Billing is based around “sprints”; a fixed block of time when a number of features are implemented.
Typically, a billing cycle is a two-week period with a defined start and end date. During every cycle you endeavor to:
- implement a number of identified features, and
- be available at certain times, e.g. Monday to Friday, 9am to 1pm. Avoid offering a full 40-hour week — you’ll need time for side tasks such as administration, inquiries and other client projects.
There’s only so much you can achieve within each cycle so development estimate margins of error are reduced. No other features are normally considered during the cycle so client interruptions are minimized.