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The importance of testing your site can't be emphasized too much. Your pages might look flawless in your favorite browser, but how do they look in another kind of browser? Different browsers , even different versions of the same browser, modify the general appearance of a page, and all recent versions can be user-configured to make drastic changes to the display. Although you can't allow for every possible variation, comprehensive testing ensures that most people can use your site. Just as important, it tells you that your pages are behaving properly before anybody else sees them. Here are some ways of getting things right the first time:

  • Test each page with the default settings of Netscape Communicator 4.0 and Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.0. These are now the dominant browsers, and version 5 of each is on the way; when these latest versions appear, test using them as well. In addition, test on a 14-inch monitor that is set to display either the minimal 640×480 resolution in 16 colors, or the middle-of-the-road setting of 600×800 in 256 colors. To test exhaustively, also check your pages out on various other operating system platforms such as the Mac OS and UNIX variants. Finally, it is also helpful to test your page in a text only environment so that your pages can be viewed in the new breed of web-enabled handheld devices.

  • Vary the browsers' configurations to see if this drastically changes the appearance of your pages.

  • Put in alternate text for images and graphical navigation controls. Remember that many people run their browsers with images turned off to download pages faster.

  • Speaking of speed, test your page's downloading time with a phone line connection through your ISP. Simply opening the page in your browser as a local file, using the Preview in Browser command, or retrieving it via an ISDN line is much faster than most real-world situations. Furthermore, even though most new personal and desktop computers have been sold with 56Kb modems for the past year or so, many telephone lines both inside and outside North America do not support this speed. Accordingly, assume that your viewers are using a 28.8Kbps line speed at best and plan your page accordingly. To be really on the safe side, test at 14.4Kbps.

  • Get user feedback during testing. Like any author, you're too close to your material to catch every flaw.

  • Print your pages and inspect them. Hard copy often reveals problems with the writing in a way that a screen image (for some mysterious reason) doesn't.

  • Remember that long, complicated pages are harder to maintain than short, simple ones.

  • After making even a minor change to your page, test it thoroughly.

  • When everything is working perfectly, test it again.



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