*Illustration by Regex SEO
This article is a part of “Dear Developer, Make Your Life Easier” series. You can read one of the latest installments, the “Top 10 Browser Console Hacks” here.
We’ve all been browsing on our phone or tablet and found a website that didn’t fit on our mobile screen and no amount of device rotation or screen manipulation would make it work. It’s frustrating when you’re trying to use a site that isn’t responsive to the type of device you’re using, when the browser console is full of errors, and nothing works the way it’s supposed to. In our world of instant gratification, no one sticks around on a non-responsive website. Users will just move on to the next search result and that traffic will be lost forever.
As a website owner, it’s critical that your site is fully operational across not only multiple browsers, such as Chrome, Edge, and Safari, but that it also works effectively on all types of devices, including desktop, tablet, mobile, and more. Since mobile devices are constantly getting bigger screens, better resolutions, and releasing updates — that can affect how your site is displayed. Ensuring that your website displays and functions correctly isn’t a one-time test after launch; it’s something you’ll need to be checking regularly to ensure you aren’t losing hard-earned traffic due to problems with how a browser displays your site. Between 70 to 80 percent of all web browsing is now done on mobile devices, so it’s critical to ensure your site works effectively across all types of devices. But how can you test against the huge number of mobile devices on the market, with new ones being released all the time?
Luckily, you don’t have to buy one of every type of web-capable device on the market to test your website’s effectiveness across different browsers and devices. You can use a browser testing tool. A browser testing tool, or browser emulator, will help you test website performance across multiple browsers and see if any errors appear or if any features aren’t functioning correctly, and ensure the design is displaying correctly and responsive across all browsers.
Just as there are a lot of devices and browsers available, there are also a lot of tools for testing those browsers. Here are the top tools for testing your website on mobile devices.
BrowserStack is more than a browser emulator. It allows you to test your website across more than 2,000 real devices and browsers all in one place. While some emulators focus on a certain type of device or browser, BrowserStack was built to provide results on all varieties of browsers and devices, including Android and iOS devices. It also allows you to run tests automatically, so you don’t have to do all the work manually. It can also help you locate the source of coding problems, to make finding a fix much faster.
There is a cost for the service, depending on how many features you want and how many tests you want to run at a time. While BrowserStack is probably more advanced than what a business with a single website needs, it offers amazing insights to those who need to be monitoring website performance in various browsers.
Other available programs with features similar to BrowserStack include: CrossBrowserTesting by SmartBear, LambdaTest, Browserling, Experitest, Functionize, and Sauce Labs. All of these are paid services that provide testing across a huge array of devices to ensure your website is always functioning correctly.
ScreenFly is essentially the opposite of BrowserStack’s feature-rich offerings. ScreenFly is a back-to-basics online tool that allows you to see how your website looks on a variety of screens. You can check how the display appears on more than 30 popular devices, including televisions, Kindle devices, desktops, mobile phones, and tablets. While ScreenFly won’t help you breakdown where any problems are occurring, it’s an easy, and free, way to quickly check your site’s display and functionality on an array of popular devices. Plus, it’s very simple to use and will give you a good understanding of how your site appears on some of the most-used devices.
If your digital footprint includes an app, in addition to your website, you’ll need an environment for testing that as well. Appetize.io allows you to test your mobile app on any device, regardless of the platform. So, if you’re working on an iOS app, but only have access to a PC, you can still test your app using Appetize.io. You’ll be able to mimic real-world conditions and debug problems quickly. If users are reporting problems from specific devices, you can quickly test the issue and get a fix out fast. This is a paid software, but it includes a free version for one user. Most importantly, it has all the features you need to ensure your app is operating seamlessly and offering your customers the best possible experience.
Given the speed at which web technology is evolving, ongoing testing and monitoring of websites and mobile apps must become a non-negotiable part of your marketing strategy. Nothing wastes marketing dollars faster than directing users to a non-responsive website, and regular testing is the best way to ensure users are getting a quality experience on your site.
If you are not sure what causes your website to misbehave, take advantage of Regex SEO free website audit — we will find the issues in no time.
This article is purely an opinion based on my work experience. If you had bad experiences with emulators I have cited, and have a better option, leave a comment below!