Should you use a desktop browser or mobile device when testing mobile websites? Each has its strengths and weaknesses. Let's find out!

Last updated July 29, 2016.

You've got your new site ready to go, now you've just got to test it for functionality and UX. You've got a desktop you ca simulate a mobile browser on but you've also got a mobile handset you could use as well. So which one should you use?

Many features and functions of a website can be tested with simulators or browsers on other platforms, like the desktop, but to completely understand how your mobile website will behave in the hands of users, there is no substitute for testing on real smartphones and tablets.

Pros of Using a Desktop Browser

Using a desktop browser to test your mobile website can be a quick way to get started. There are indeed several benefits of this approach.

Testers may be able to get started without any special set-up and without having to procure mobile devices. Moreover, you may already have testing tools available that support the desktop.

But there are limitations to the desktop-based approach that should send you searching for real devices very early in the process.

Cons of Using a Desktop Browser

The first difficulty using a desktop browser is that a website may not display pages on the desktop exactly as it does on an actual device.

There are differences in rendering engines, screen sizes, and resolutions. It won’t do to have an object hidden or partially obscured by a mobile browser even though it is properly positioned on the desktop (or the reverse). Plus, the website may render differently on different mobile devices (tablets vs. phones) and different operating systems (iOS, Android).

A tool like Mobile Labs’ Trust™, that recognizes objects based on their logical properties, can help you test on multiple real mobile devices and multiple mobile operating systems.

A second problem with desktop-based testing of mobile web sites is that real-world integration with the mobile operating system and its objects is impossible.

For example, the picker wheel for a drop-down menu may not be consistently displayed or displayed at all. Test accuracy may suffer, and you may miss defects or find defects that are unique to the desktop and that when fixed in the desktop become bugs on the mobile device.

Memory availability and CPU performance may be radically different when comparing a desktop to a mobile device. The desktop may have much more memory available and may mask performance issues because of superior disk, memory, and CPU performance.

Desktop browsers may not support touch events and mobile gestures at all, or in the same way they are supported on a mobile device. Mobile Labs’ deviceConnect™ supports touch and multi-touch gestures for remote manual testing and for automated testing with Mobile Labs’ Trust.

Finally, the network environment on the desktop may be different from the mobile device. The desktop may use very fast, wired Ethernet while the mobile device uses slower Wi-Fi or even slower cellular data links.

The Best Approach: Test Mobile Websites Using a Mobile Device

For the reasons mentioned above, a desktop browser can’t be expected to accurately and perfectly simulate a mobile device.

To truly understand and view how a mobile website will function on mobile devices, we need to test on real devices. It’s an important part of learning when a mobile application is user-ready.

To ensure testing integrity, you need a full set of mobile website test cases to perform testing on real devices and to validate that the website performs as expected regardless of device type or operating system version.

The Mobile Labs’ automated browsers for Android and iOS allow you to build robust object repository models and to script common objects regardless of platform. As a result, you get a rich and full understanding of the structure, state, data, flow, logic and content of your mobile application, in a variety of environments, with less scripting and fewer unique test cases.

With a cloud-based mobile device management solution like Mobile Labs’ deviceConnect, you can get the best of both worlds.

You get the simplicity of gaining physical access to a wide range of devices and operating system versions. You can validate with manual tests using the device’s built-in browser, and you can automate using Mobile Labs’ components.

deviceConnect lets you put the right device under the right tester’s control at exactly the right time. Then, using Mobile Labs Trust™ testing mobile websites (and apps) on many device types can be automated and is easy, convenient and seamless.

Don’t forget to download our eBook on Amazon, to stay ahead of the curve in 2017!

Michael Ryan

Michael Ryan serves as Mobile Labs’ chief technology officer. In this role, Ryan provides the technological vision and drives Mobile Labs Trust’s product road map. Ryan has more than 35 years of experience in leading software development teams that design and build robust and market-leading solutions for large-scale enterprise customers among Fortune 1000 companies.

More Posts | Website