Designers should try to fully immerse themselves in the testing process by using hardware not software.
Following my earlier post about the idea of “device bundles” I thought I’d reflect on a hectic day of back and forth on Twitter and a couple of the common questions and observations that arose. For
Until fairly recently we (Offroadcode) were much like a lot of other small agencies feeling our way around responsive web design by using the few tools and resources available. About a year ago our responsive web design toolkit basically consisted of:
- Resizing browser windows
- Whatever phones or tablets we owned between us (not many as there’s only 3 of us)
Move forward a year and we’ve learnt a bit, failed and flailed around and hopefully we’re better at what we do but one thing jumped out at us as soon as we started testing (forgive the following statement of the blindingly obvious) – websites you touch and websites you point at with a mouse are different beasts.
Even for us, progress is still fairly slow and a rather personal affair when it comes to testing devices. Now our modest testing “suite” has expanded to:
- Resize browser windows
- Use a range of emulators
- Have an iPad and hacked Windows tablet
- Have an iPhone, iPad, Galaxy S and Stephen’s battered Windows phone
It’s nowhere near the range of devices some agencies will own but it’s reasonable starting point.
Not testing on handheld devices – still an option?
One of the things I have to admit I wasn’t expecting in the poll response (so far) was that a significant chunk of nearly 25% said they weren’t interested in trying to find a solution to the problem of restrictive hardware costs for testing responsive web designs.
It’s difficult for me to say if some who said no thought I was trying to sell something or if they misunderstood my question in some way but I still thought that number was very high and made me wonder if there are a lot of folks out there who are building and testing responsive websites by resizing a browser window and relying on mouse driven emulator testing?
I totally understand the hardware issue, hence my previous post and I see some larger agencies blogging about their latest project they’ve tested on hundreds of devices (be careful though -it’s still tricky). The pragmatic part of me knows that this is always going to an unrealistic thing for small agencies and freelancers to match and making best use of what’s available is always better than nothing.
As @rodneyrehm rightly pointed out, testing manually on a number of hardware devices is extremely time consuming at the moment and of course I agree but perhaps it’s just another subtle but important shift in how design and development processes are changing.
We prototype a lot more using wireframing and HTML here and it saves a great deal of time when it comes to how much we do visually in Fireworks. That time, it would appear has now shifted towards to the testing phase of the project.
Nothing wrong with that, using more devices gives you a better idea of how a site works. It’s just positive progression. Now if only there was a practical way around the cost issue ..
Pointing vs Poking
I had a huge number of people suggesting they’d like an emulator solution of some sort where connection speeds can be spoofed, orientation etc can be changed. All of these are what I’d consider good “80% solutions”. Having only fairly recently started testing in a small selection of devices, there’s a noticeable difference in how you interact with a website when you use a finger instead of a mouse and you can’t emulate that part of the testing without holding the device. Something I found recently when I installed the new Path app.