Testing websites in multiple browsers

Browsers

In the words of The Fast Show: This week I are been mostly testing websites in different browsers.

Using Google Analytics

Thanks to our use of the ever-useful Google Analytics I can see that the top five browsers to visit the University website are:

  1. Internet Explorer – 74.01%
  2. Firefox – 17.78%
  3. Safari – 6.65%
  4. Netscape – 0.76%
  5. Opera – 0.44%

Within the Google Analytics stats I can also break down those generalisations and learn, for example, that of those 271,685 visitors who used Internet Explorer to visit the website last month 60% used IE6, 38% used IE7. This gives us an idea of the browsers that we should definitely be supporting.

We made a decision at the start of the coding project to only support IE6/Windows and above, and not to support IE/Mac at all — after all, Microsoft no longer support IE on the Mac so why should we?

The Google Analytics statistics have, thankfully, shown us that we were right not to put a huge amount of time and effort into trying to make sure the CSS code worked perfectly with IE5.5 and below. Of the visitors who use Internet Explorer 99.08% use either IE6 or IE7; 0.92% use older ‘unsupported’ versions of IE.

Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3 … 18

So, yesterday I created a mindmap showing us what browsers were most used and what outstanding problems were still being experienced by these.

To do this I got to install quite a few of these browsers onto my work PC. I now have no fewer than 18:

  1. Firefox 1.0.8
  2. Firefox 1.5.0.10
  3. Firefox 2.0.0.4
  4. Internet Explorer 3.0
  5. Internet Explorer 4.01
  6. Internet Explorer 5.01
  7. Internet Explorer 5.55
  8. Internet Explorer 6.0
  9. Internet Explorer 7.0
  10. Netscape 4.8
  11. Netscape 7.1
  12. Netscape 7.2
  13. Netscape 8.1.3
  14. Netscape 9.0b1
  15. Opera 7.11
  16. Opera 8.5
  17. Opera 9.21
  18. Safari 3.1

This has been incredibly valuable. And I’ve now got the go-ahead to get our hands on a Mac and a Linux box so that we can test their browsers natively.

Firefox

Whenever I’ve tried to install more than one version of Mozilla Firefox I’ve run into troubles; or if I’ve installed the latest release of Firefox 3.

So here’s what I do: I head over to PortableApps.com who offer stand-alone versions of a lot of software, including Mozilla Firefox, Portable Edition.

These are primarily designed to install onto and run from portable flash drives, but they can also be installed to particular folders on your PC, with the reassurance that they will not interfere with your default installation of Firefox.

Specific legacy versions of Firefox can also be found on the Mozilla Firefox, Portable Edition Sourceforge page.

Internet Explorer

Since Internet Explorer is so embedded into your operating system (I’m speaking to Windows-users here) you can’t simply install more than one version of IE quite as easily as you might hope.

However, aware of this the kind people at TredoSoft have created an application that will install five standalone versions of IE: 3.0, 4.01, 5.01, 5.55 and 6.0.

Check out Multiple IE.

Netscape and Opera

With both Netscape and Opera you can install as many versions as you wish — assuming that you remember when installing to give them unique installation locations. Otherwise you can, as I did yesterday, install one version over the top of another.

A great place to download older versions of these, and other browsers is the Browser Archive at evolt.org.

Safari

And last, but not least, Apple Safari 3, which has only been available for Windows’ users for a couple of weeks. It’s most certainly a welcome addition to my installed browser arsenal.

… and lastly

For all you metalheads, why not install the SlipKnot browser from 1999? Not because it’ll help you with your web development, but simply so that you can say that you have a browser installed with the same name as a nine-piece metal band from Des Moines, Iowa! \|m|