You drive up to the farm, family in tow, and pick only the freshest and juiciest apples from the orchard. Your oldest wants apples from the tallest branches and your smallest won't touch anything with even the slightest blemish. You're looking for a few for pack lunches and a few more for baking. You pick only what you need, and leave the rest behind. A simple plan that meets the needs of the whole family.
So how do you apply that same simplicity to something as complicated, some might say mind numbing, as browser testing? If you step back and take a broader look at the problem, it's nothing more than a day at the farm.
Selecting variety - Considering browser usage share.
Start by taking a look at your site usage stats. Make note of which browsers have a share over 2%. These will be your choice varieties that most people in your family enjoys. You'll probably end up with Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari. You're next step will be to select which versions of these browser varieties to include in your basket.
Picking what's ripe - The freshest and juiciest, leading edge browsers.
The latest and greatest is what everybody talks about - in their Twitter and Facebook feeds, and at the water-cooler and long-weekend barbecue. Pick the latest versions from each of your selected variety off the tree now and use them as a showcase of what you can do. You'll be well ahead of the game as their market share grows.
Picking outside of the evergreens.
Most modern varieties of browsers are now considered evergreen, that means they upgrade automatically, leading to very low usage of older versions. Generally we don’t need to worry about evergreen browsers more than a couple of versions behind, since so few people use them.
A few varieties, especially some older versions of Internet Explorer, still have significant pockets of popularity that we have to pay attention to. These may have popularity because they were the last browser to support a certain type of operating system or they may have some specific enterprise appeal. Either way, leave these varieties in your basket and you can use the same cut off number that you used to pick your varieties - when each version drops below 2%, you can happily remove it from your basket.
The Mobile Universe - Pick your own devices.
Device testing is similar to browser testing, except you expect faster upgrading by users. With devices, there are fewer browsers to test since most users stick to the stock browsers - Safari, Android and, if you do alot of business to business, Blackberry. The important characteristics to watch for in your devices, however, are size and operating system. Since users upgrade so quickly, you're safe to limit your testing to fairly recent operating systems, but you'll want to sample fruits of different sizes - large phones, small tablets and both standard phones and tablets.
The Social Network - So many hybrids.
In many ways, social communities such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter are independent platforms running within your browser. When a user shares your site, the social networks take the information you give them and display it how they see fit as a post in their own environment. Developers understand this, and craft their shared information specifically so the various social media platforms will display it correctly.
Testing will need to review those shares, and make sure any one seeing your content in a share via Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn sees what you want them to see, how you want them to see it. Testing the social network harkens back to the early days of the internet, when browsers displayed sites surprisingly differently from one another and we often spent time writing different code for each browser. Soon enough, social media will standardize just like browsers have, but in the mean time, bring a large basket to your social network picking.
Bring your basket and enjoy an outing at the Pick your own farm. Pick only what you need, leaving behind the waste, and you'll be well on your way to a more efficient browser testing process. Once you've filled your basket, don't forget to check out our article Knocking on the Walls - Smart Beta Testing For Digital Projects to see how and when the best times are to test those browsers.