Cross Browser Testing

Cross Browser Testing

I recently started using a new service called CrossBrowserTesting, and it’s so incredibly awesome I felt compelled to write a review.  First some background…

Browser compatibility is a difficult challenge for all web designers and developers.  The process of debugging HTML, CSS, or Javascript problems that only occur on specific platforms is both tedious and frustrating.  At Sitening we run either Parallels or VMWare on our laptops so we can launch Windows and test the sites we’re working on.  Unfortunately, this is a time-consuming process, and the results are often suspect.  While it is possible to install multiple versions of IE, for instance, I’ve had cases where my multi-install IE6 doesn’t behave like an install that only has IE6.  What we all need is a quick, efficient way to access a variety of operating systems and browsers without having to build our own testing lab.

Enter CrossBrowserTesting, which offers full administrative access to a large array of platforms and configurations.  Using either their web-based VNC applet or your own VNC client, you can launch any of their available server images and do whatever you want.  Because the image is destroyed when your session ends, you can install toolbars, applications, change settings, or anything else you need to test.

Some of my favorite configurations include:

Windows 98 SE with IE6, Firefox 1.5, and Netscape 9
Windows XP Home with Firefox 1.0, Mozilla 1.7, and Safari 3
Windows Vista with IE7 and Flash 9
OSX 10.5 with Opera 9.2.7 and Camino 1.6.1
Ubuntu 7.10 with Firefox 2.0

You can view their entire list of available platforms here.

Using the service is easy: register for a free account, pick your platform, and wait for the image to be prepared.  Paid users get priority over free users, but I never had to wait more than 60 seconds to access my images.  Free accounts are limited to 5 minutes per session, which is great for a quick test.  I opted to buy some credits at $0.13/minute with PayPal, which gives me first priority for launching images, but also ensures that I’m not interrupted after 5 minutes.

Working in the image, I noticed that the mouse and keyboard were surprisingly responsive.  The screen redraw in VNC can be a little hard to work with, but minimizing or maximizing the browser window usually sets it straight.  Their web-based VNC is convenient so I did not try my own VNC client, but if I was running the image for several hours I might want to.

One of their newest features is their Screenshots and Slideshows.  Anytime during your session you can take a screenshot which gets stored with your account.  When you’re done collecting screenshots, you can assemble them into a slideshow.  This process is really simple and easy, and it’s a great way to record the results of a test.

View the large version here.

I’m really impressed with CrossBrowserTesting, so much that it’s quickly becoming my first choice for browser testing.