Basic Website Testing

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I've been asked a number of times lately how I test websites that I work on. While I'm never shy about talking about this sort of thing, I thought writing it down might be beneficial.

The Basic Browser Check

Visually check your site in several browsers. I'd suggest testing pages in a number of browsers. Always include Internet Explorer, preferably several versions. I'd also throw in Firefox, Chrome, Opera, or Safari as you are able. Bonus points if you're testing in all of these and a few I didn't name. Demerits if your default browser is still IE. Double demerits if you only test in IE.  Checking it on both a PC and a Mac is good, adding Linux is better.

What do I look for?

At this point your looking for basic function. Does the browser display what you expect? Minor spacing variations may be acceptable. A few pixels here or there often make little difference. Sometimes they make a great deal of difference, and you need to be prepared to fix the variations that count. When the difference is 10 pixels between headings and paragraphs versus 11 pixels, you might want to consider how many people will notice versus how much time it will take to fix. If you have misaligned background images, you just buckle down and fix the problem.

Raising the Bar - Validation

Next step, validate everything. There are a number of ways to check site validation. Find one or more of these that work for you and use them early and often. I list several tools I use on my resources page, but there are others. A Google search for validation tools should come up with a multitude of choices. I test templates as I develop, then I continue spot checking through the lifetime of the site design. I also use site quality testing tools like Compliance Sheriff, but that can definitely be overkill for smaller projects.

If you use Firefox, try the HTML Validator and Web Developer Toolbar for testing validation. They let you test HTML, CSS, and JavaScript on the fly.

Accessibility

This is going to be a sinple explanation of a complex topic, but here are a few ways to test for accessibility issues.

None of these are the perfect tool, but they're all helpful and free.

What's it all mean?

These are all tests and tools. None of them will give you a perfect site, but they'll let you know what you have. Knowing what the issues are is the first step in solving them.  Good luck, I hope all your projects go well. Check back soon, I have a more in-depth look into testing for site quality and accessibility planned for the near future.

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