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DESIGN USABILITY

Browsers as Test Platforms


In this article we will take a look at browsers from a developer’s point of view. When developing for the Web, it is inevitable that we need to debug and test our work. How easy or how hard is it to find the problems causing errors, and how easy is it to replicate certain environment changes? Once we identify the steps we need to take to test properly, we will see if there is a chance to extend the browser to make these steps a lot easier.

Author Info:
By: Chris Heilmann
Rating: 5 stars5 stars5 stars5 stars5 stars / 8
December 08, 2004
TABLE OF CONTENTS:
  1. · Browsers as Test Platforms
  2. · Microsoft Internet Explorer 6
  3. · Mozilla Firefox 1.0
  4. · Opera 7.5
  5. · Summary
  6. · Browser wishlist

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Browsers as Test Platforms - Summary
(Page 5 of 6 )

Surprisingly, the underdog Opera is by far the superior browser when it comes to testing and debugging Web pages. Its low market penetration and great CSS rendering engine makes it a bad test platform though, since something that looks correct in Opera might be totally unusable in IE. As an overall test browser, Firefox is the better choice. IE needs to be on every test plan though, since it still is the most used browser; but it is time to consider moving on.

Improving the existing browsers

Both IE and Firefox can be improved using third party extensions. For Firefox there is the Web developer toolbar (http://texturizer.net/firefox/extensions/#webdeveloper), which is so packed with goodies that it would make up an article on its own. One of its best features is the Sidebar, which allows you to see and edit the CSS files in use. Firefox updates the local copy of the document, not the one on the server, of course. Still, for debugging with third parties, it is a real timesaver.

Another small but significant change for Firefox is to create a new Bookmark in our Links Toolbar with the source:

chrome://global/content/console.xul

Browsers as Test Platforms

When we tick the “load this bookmark in the sidebar” option, we can see the Javascript console next to the document instead of opening it in a new window.

For IE, there is the accessibility toolbar (http://www.nils.org.au/ais/web/resources/toolbar/redirect/). It is not quite as powerful as the Web developer one, but it makes life a lot easier, especially when testing the dependencies of the page on scripting and styles.

Furthermore, there are various bookmarklets or favelets collections (see the links at the end of this article) allowing for some of the functionality offered in those toolbars.


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