Why we Test on Real Devices

We recently made a switch in our responsive (mobile) development to testing our pages on multiple real devices across the pages on a website. Before now, we had been testing simply using our browser windows and emulators and occasionally an iPhone here or there to double-check some items. In fact, that’s what most web development shops do since it’s very expensive to buy devices and emulators usually cover 90% of the problems that you’ll encounter.

However, there are a number of problems with this method that make testing on real devices all the more important.

Touching and Feeling

Touching and feeling are a large part of the smart phone experience and you just can’t get the same sensation/feelings on a desktop or laptop screen. Actually using your fingers to navigate the site gives us a far, far better idea for what the end user experience will be like and find points where they might get frustrated or confused. So, we whip out the phones and tablets and start playing around until we’d be happy to visit the site on one of our phones.

Every Device is Quirky

Just the other week we had a client with a random dropdown menu issue on their website. They had a Galaxy tablet and for the life of us, we could not isolate the issue on any of our devices – so we bought a Galaxy tablet and fixed it in about 5 minutes. Every single device on the market acts just a little bit differently than the rest, especially with the plethora of Andriod devices running disparate versions of the OS and sometimes it’s impossible to fix an issue without actually seeing it on the particular device.

Different Screens, Different Rendering

Between retina/hiDPI screens and differing screen widths and different color renditions you have a lot of variables that make each kind of device a little different. Being able to see it on the screen and determine if there’s enough contrast, or if a particular image is rendering blurry, or we need just a little more line-height helps us to fine-tune each site to get perfection.

Currently, we’re testing on the following devices, and will hopefully be adding more in the future to round out some the big areas we’re missing:

  • iPhone 4
  • iPhone 5
  • iPad 2
  • iPad Mini
  • Nokia Lumia
  • Galaxy Tab 2.0
  • 13-inch laptop
  • 27-inch desktop

This amount of devices gets us about another 5% closer to covering every base we can. We’re far short of a “device lab” that would have anywhere from 20 – 80 devices running at one time, but for now we’ll keep expanding and producing the best responsive sites around.