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All Web Developers Should Have Access to a Device Lab (Video)

Roblimo posted about 5 months ago | from the still-working-on-making-website-standards-after-all-these-years dept.

Displays 60

This interview with Googler Pete LePage took place at Google I/O 2014, where Pete and coworker Matt Gaunt set up a Device Lab with 46 different devices on their display wall. The point wasn't to show off Google's coolness as much as it was to let developers see how their websites displayed on as wide a range of mobile devices as possible. This is reminiscent of the last century's Any Browser campaign, which was set up to encourage developers to make sites that worked right in any browser instead of having a WWW full of sites "best viewed in Exploroscape" that displayed poorly in other browsers.

Today, the trick is to make a site that is fully functional across a wide range of devices with different size screens that a user might decide to view in landscape mode one day and portrait mode the next. Google is happy to share their MiniMobileDeviceLab with you to help set up multi-unit displays. Pete also suggests checking out PageSpeed Insights and Web Fundamentals even if you're a skilled and experienced Web designer, because those two Google sites are chock full of information on how to make sure your site works right on most devices and in most popular browsers. (Alternate Video Link)

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Thats great and all... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47410197)

but people can't be bothered or don't have the budget to make apps compatble with anything other than latest {pick a browser}. What happens when hypothetical boss (*cough*) says "Everything else is unsupported, tough luck".

My dick (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47410437)

Blow me. If you need tips ask your mom.

Re:Thats great and all... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47411113)

What happens when hypothetical boss (*cough*) says "Everything else is unsupported, tough luck".

They lose money.

I went to Honda's web site a while back on my Android tablet to see what their new car prices were like. Whereas many auto manufacturers are sane enough to just have plain HTML+JS in their sites, Honda decided to use Flash. The Flash app downloads, and then says something along the lines of 'an error occurred.'

Works on iPad, because the site switches to.. guess what... plain HTML+JS. Doesn't work on the most popular mobile OS, unless they've fixed it since. Doesn't have an option to say 'screw Flash, just make it work'. Doesn't work on Linux at all.

HTML and CGI (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47412387)

(Basic) HTML and CGI.

You get reflow, text sizing, pretty much everything you need to convey information and service data requests. You even get to use your own CPU for actual work, instead of stealing cycles from the viewer.

Funny how all my web sites still work on everything from palm pilots to iphones and android and all the big browsers, not to mention Lynx. They look ok, too, and reflow and behave according to how the USER wants to see the site.

I know, I know, you can't create Farmville this way. Ask me if I give a flying fuck. Ask me if I think the world would be missing anything important while you're at it. :)

Re:HTML and CGI (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47412989)

This one. Websites just sell stuffs. Good ole HTML should do it. (I also don't care about timewaster sites.) And I usually read websites in Thunderbird thru RSS anyway. Fuck flash, fuck JS.

Re:HTML and CGI (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47414295)

Damn straight. Supporting YOUR shit device is not MY problem! Just HTML. Fuck HTML5. Fuck JS. Fuck Flash. Double-fuck Java. Oh, and fuck that XML and RSS shit, too!

Fragmentation (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47410237)

There are less polite terms I want to use instead of "forget 'em."

Here's a free car analogy: scalable websites are like CAFE-required design elements on modern cars. Everything looks the same and ends up less efficient than it could be.

Re:Fragmentation (1)

Ichijo (607641) | about 5 months ago | (#47410391)

When you dictate the how and not just the what, you are correct that often "everything looks the same and ends up less efficient than it could be."

Re:Fragmentation (2, Insightful)

Cryacin (657549) | about 5 months ago | (#47410493)

Say whatever you want about the tech, but this was the one big ticket item that the flash plugin did address. Single publish capacity, and the ability to properly lay out in a responsive manner.

Re:Fragmentation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47411725)

That was something that Flash could address, but often didn't depending on how lazy the developer was. I remember seeing sites with Flash that screwed up if not used on a 4:3 screen, or were unusable if you didn't have default system colors. Developers that are lazy or unaware of the variety of configurations a browser can come in will find how to cause problems with just about any programming environment.

Re:Fragmentation (1)

tompaulco (629533) | about 5 months ago | (#47410879)

There are less polite terms I want to use instead of "forget 'em."

Here's a free car analogy: scalable websites are like CAFE-required design elements on modern cars. Everything looks the same and ends up less efficient than it could be.

This. And for the ultimate example, I give you Metro. Let's have the same interface across all platforms, and since mobile devices can't do the more efficient input methods, we will instead dumb down the desktop so that it uses the inefficient input methods.

Slashdotted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47410251)

It's been a while since its happened. But self-slashdotting? This has to be a first.

Don't Bother (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47410261)

Why would we want more websites on mobile devices? The experience sucks! Are we just trying to justify web developers now?

the outsourcing / IT / PHB can't pay for that (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 5 months ago | (#47410281)

the outsourcing / IT / PHB can't pay for that.

and what about PHB driven IT rules that you need bypass just in some cases to have some then other then IE (hope it's not some old build) much less an mac, some non windows XP or 7 system.

and (4, Informative)

rossdee (243626) | about 5 months ago | (#47410325)

everybody sjould have above average income, and only use renewable sources of energy.

Meanwhile in the real world...

Re:and (2)

Tablizer (95088) | about 5 months ago | (#47410473)

and give everyone a pony

Re:and (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47412403)

Mmmm.... pony SOUP!

you lying bro (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47410339)

point wasn't to show off Google's coolness

Yes it was.

With mobile at less than 1%.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47410405)

of the traffic on my company's ~250 different web sites, there's no way I could get a single device approved, much less 46! The article is unrealistic. When mobile traffic one day counts for more than a tiny fraction of a percentage of the traffic, then companies will start to invest in making the web sites work on mobile. As it stands today, I have almost ten times as many people still using IE6 so my time is better spent on IE6 compatibility than on mobile.

Re:With mobile at less than 1%.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47410457)

my time is better spent on IE6 compatibility than on mobile

and you wonder why none of your users attempt to use mobile?

Re:With mobile at less than 1%.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47411079)

Ha! Just because you realize it is a self-fulfilling prophesy doesn't mean that management will!

But seriously, most of our sites work well enough to use on my iPad 1 even if they're ugly so there's very little benefit to return on investing in mobile development. The one exception to that is a site for a chain of restaurants we own. Over 90% of our users say they use the site to find the closest location. Our product guys want to make sure they see the menu so instead of showing them an easy link to locations, we make them click through two interstitials and scroll to the bottom of the page. Now that is product development of the worst kind.

And, this constant /. error:

"You failed to confirm you are a human. Please start from the beginning and try again. If you are a human, we apologize for the inconvenience"

is really getting annoying. I don't understand why development for this site was abandoned. It still gets pretty good traffic.

Re:With mobile at less than 1%.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47411763)

Just to bring up the opposing data point:

Over 50% of the traffic to our primary site now comes from mobile browsers. We've gone for the m.* version of our site now (not a responsive www.* site) and have an iPhone app, an Android app that's just been released, and i think there's even people working on a Windows phone app.
Oh and official corporate policy is to not give a flying fuck about any version of IE 8 :)

Hangouts only works on Chrome (3, Interesting)

gauauu (649169) | about 5 months ago | (#47410415)

This is coming from the company that recently decided that Hangouts only works in their Chrome browser.

Re:Hangouts only works on Chrome (1)

stephanruby (542433) | about 5 months ago | (#47411071)

This is coming from the company that recently decided that Hangouts only works in their Chrome browser.

According to this help section on Google Hangout, this is not currently true [google.com] .

You say this is a "recent" decision, so I may have missed it. Please give us a citation.

Re:Hangouts only works on Chrome (1)

gauauu (649169) | about 5 months ago | (#47412157)

This is coming from the company that recently decided that Hangouts only works in their Chrome browser.

According to this help section on Google Hangout, this is not currently true [google.com] .

You say this is a "recent" decision, so I may have missed it. Please give us a citation.

Looks like you're right. Although, today, when I tried to install it in firefox (version 29), I got this error message [imgur.com] , which told me that I needed to download Chrome (it did NOT tell me that my browser was too old).

So I stand corrected, I apologize, but I do cast some of that blame onto their own error message.

Re:Hangouts only works on Chrome (1)

Khyber (864651) | about 5 months ago | (#47411539)

Hangouts (and by extension the Helpouts service since it uses Hangouts) works just fine in FireFox.

Source: I'm a Helpouts service provider. I use FF, not Chrome.

Re:Hangouts only works on Chrome (1)

gauauu (649169) | about 5 months ago | (#47412163)

Hangouts (and by extension the Helpouts service since it uses Hangouts) works just fine in FireFox.

Source: I'm a Helpouts service provider. I use FF, not Chrome.

See my statement above. I apologize for spreading false information, but I DID get that false information from an error message on Google's web page.

money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47410527)

Sadly I work in the real world where there are thousands of web developers all vying for projects and undercutting to get the jobs, I can afford one mobile device, one tablet and my PC, stuff gets tested on those, if it doesn't work on flavour X of device Y who cares tbh, my customers certainly don't because time is money and they want stuff doing cheap, it works on most up to date devices is good enough for them.

pinch to zoom (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47410717)

3:07 This is one of my pet peeves! (pinch to zoom being turned off). If I can't zoom because some idiot chose form over function, I can't use the site on a mobile device. That is broken design. Luckily chrome on android has an accessibility option to turn off enforcing of pinch-to-zoom.

Virtual machines (1, Interesting)

citizenr (871508) | about 5 months ago | (#47410735)

What exactly is the point of spending so much money on hardware when you could run >40 virtual machines emulating different Android devices?

Re:Virtual machines (1)

tlambert (566799) | about 5 months ago | (#47410849)

What exactly is the point of spending so much money on hardware when you could run >40 virtual machines emulating different Android devices?

Most companies producing devices with browsers are pretty ass about providing working simulators/emulators for the hardware.

This is OK for one company, like Google or Roxio, to deal with supporting a lot of platforms with all sorts of physical differences from there being no hardware standard for Android devices to which vendors have to adhere, but ... it's not going to address the underlying problem, just because you can make the render device variant with less effort.

Re:Virtual machines (1)

the_B0fh (208483) | about 5 months ago | (#47412273)

Because emulators do not properly emulate some issues. Keep in mind, most of the time the host is... x86, but the end point being emulated is ARM.

Re:Virtual machines (1)

tepples (727027) | about 5 months ago | (#47413079)

Yet an x86 can emulate a game console containing a 6502, 65816, 68000, or ARM CPU with cycle accuracy.

Re:Virtual machines (1)

the_B0fh (208483) | about 5 months ago | (#47437853)

a 2Ghz cpu emulating a 1Mhz cpu with amazing accuracy doesn't mean a 2Ghz cpu can emulate a 2Ghz cpu with amazing accuracy.

Re:Virtual machines (1)

citizenr (871508) | about 5 months ago | (#47420931)

What issues? Elaborate.
Especially in a context of a 'device lab' whose main purpose is testing responsive design of web pages.

It looks more eye candy than useful to me (1)

brunes69 (86786) | about 5 months ago | (#47411039)

- It sits high on a wall in some common area, far from the cubicle of anyone who would want to use the thing for actual testing

- Many of devices are mounted so high you wouldn't even see them without a stepstool let alone be able to interact with them (see hilarious video http://tv.slashdot.org/video/?... [slashdot.org] )

- Almost all the devices are Google Play edition devices or Nexus devices and they're all using Chrome for testing, none using stock Browser or Firefox or Dolphin or any other browser. Hardly a good cross-section of devices or browsers for compatibility testing! It seems more like a PR stunt to increase Google device visibility. In fact they even say this outright! "We picked our devices mostly from Google Play Edition devices, and picked a few other fun and shiney net devices that would look cool on the wall"

Same problem at Wikipedia (1)

yurik (160101) | about 5 months ago | (#47411189)

I am part of the Wikipedia Zero initiative, and we need to ensure that http://m.wikipedia.org/ [wikipedia.org] runs on ALL platforms, including the mostly forgotten flip phones with no JavaScript. Which obviously presents the problem of testing. There are some sites (we have an account with one of them) that provides multi-platform testing, but all that means is multiple flavors of Android & IOS... with possibly the latest BB thrown in. Unfortunately, the bigger problem is the older devices, where capabilities were much more varied. One day I hope we can have access to the most commonly used labs testing, including various Nokias, etc. Hoping...

All web devs shouldn't *need* a device lab (1)

FuzzNugget (2840687) | about 5 months ago | (#47411191)

Instead, browsers should conform to standards consistently so that web devs can be reasonably certain their code will run properly across the board without the financially and practically unrealistic expectation of testing it on every imaginable browser for every imaginable device.

Re:All web devs shouldn't *need* a device lab (1)

sexconker (1179573) | about 5 months ago | (#47411279)

This.
Fuck the device, the browser should behave properly. If it doesn't, too fucking bad.
I am so fucking sick of the Android browser deciding I should or should not be able to zoom on certain pages, deciding to reflow content based on my orientation, etc.
And i absolutely fucking hate sites that do not respect my preference of seeing the real site instead of the shitty mobile version.

Re:All web devs shouldn't *need* a device lab (3, Informative)

0123456 (636235) | about 5 months ago | (#47411669)

Here's another idea. How about we create a whole new format which separates content from presentation, and then the display program can figure out the best way to display it on that device.

We could call the format, I don't know, 'HTML'? And the display program, hmm, maybe a 'web browser'?

Oh, crap. We tried that, and then the developers decided they just MUST be able to specify exaclty where everything is displayed on the screen, which is why they're now having to rebuild all their sites to work on mobile devices.

Good way to ensure job security, I guess.

Re:All web devs shouldn't *need* a device lab (1)

Roblimo (357) | about 5 months ago | (#47412429)

While I was going through this video to add titles and intro/outro music etc., then writing the text intro, I kept thinking about the anybrowser movement and the guy I first heard about it from, Jeffrey Zeldman - http://www.zeldman.com/ [zeldman.com]

I think I'll do an interview with him. He is like the original godfather of web design, and a great guy in general.

Re:All web devs shouldn't *need* a device lab (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47412441)

No. Designers, artists, and managers decided that everything must look exactly how they pictured it. I don't know any developers who want to tinker with browser hacks and crummy architecture in order to make a website picture perfect. I wish more of us would grow a pair and say 'no' more often.

Re:All web devs shouldn't *need* a device lab (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47413861)

I had to laugh out loud when a developer proudly showed me how he had redesigned a web page to be "responsive".

Not knowing what he meant by "responsive" at that point, I was intrigued. When I found out that he meant you could still read the page when the browser was resized... I wasn't quite so impressed...

I don't think "That's how the web is supposed to work" rang any bells with him. He thought he was jumping on a new trend.

What about... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47411823)

... the desktop?

No, not the webmonkey's desktop. More like, someone else's. Who's still stuck with 1024x768 and yet does not run the browser full screen, nor has the latest browser so no accelerated javascript engine, nor has quick hardware, or lots of memory, but does have a fsckton of tabs open so your website actually can't use much in the way of resources. And oh yeah, connected through wet string shared with a couple house mates, so no opening up fifty connections to load all those fancy avatars from people he's never yeard of, or the twenty behaviour trackers, or the five javascript libraries from elsewhere, or several megabits of continuous AJAX traffic for no reason, or ....

Just sayin'.

Responsive Design Mode (1)

phizi0n (1237812) | about 5 months ago | (#47412143)

Every modern desktop browser has a way to view responsive design easily so you don't need a wall full of screens of different sizes and orientations, all you really need is a few mobile devices running various OS versions and a PC full of VM's so that you can catch platform specific bugs.

Re:Responsive Design Mode (1)

Roblimo (357) | about 5 months ago | (#47412457)

That wall of screen was a tradeshow display -- by Google, of course. But check this link (it's in the intro text) again: https://groups.google.com/foru... [google.com]

The idea isn't that every Web designer in the world should have his or her own wall of screens, but that you and other people who make sites and games and such might collaborate on setting up a group of displays that includes some of the most popular OSes, browsers, and device form factors.

I have always been shocked at how many people who make websites design for a browser, OS, and screen size just like theirs. I remember a conversation in 1998 or so with with a web designer who said, "But our target audience is like you and me - they all have big monitors."

I said, "Really?" and hauled out my little laptop. "What if I'm looking at your site in a hotel room someplace instead of in my home office?"

"Oh," he said.

Re:Responsive Design Mode (1)

phizi0n (1237812) | about 5 months ago | (#47412761)

The idea isn't that every Web designer in the world should have his or her own wall of screens, but that you and other people who make sites and games and such might collaborate on setting up a group of displays that includes some of the most popular OSes, browsers, and device form factors.

I did not even imply anything about it being a personal collection. My point was that most of the layout specific problems can be easily seen without ever touching a device beyond your work PC. Mobile app devs need device labs way more than web devs do but this article is targeted at web devs not app devs.

Only if the PC is made by Apple (1)

tepples (727027) | about 5 months ago | (#47413097)

In order for this to work, the PC has to be made by Apple. Safari has become exclusive to OS X and iOS, and Apple prohibits running an OS X VM on any host computer other than a Mac.

Re:Only if the PC is made by Apple (1)

biodata (1981610) | about 5 months ago | (#47414091)

I don't think people are bothering to check Safari compatibility any more, unless they happen to use a Mac themselves. I'm finding more and more sites where Safari has buttons completely missed from the rendering (or hidden behind something else or otherwise invisible). If Safair won't run on anything but a mac then a large proportion of the dev community is never going to bother checking it.

Re:Only if the PC is made by Apple (1)

tepples (727027) | about 5 months ago | (#47414315)

Conventional wisdom is that iPhone users have more disposable income than Android users, and you need a Mac to debug in Mobile Safari [tutsplus.com] . Making something broken on iPhone could cause more affluent, more influential people not to share your site.

Re:Only if the PC is made by Apple (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47417289)

Conventional wisdom is that iPhone users have more disposable income than Android users

"Conventional wisdom" amongst delusional Apple fanatics who think they're literally superior life-forms to everyone else, you mean.

Access, YES. Buy devices, NO. (1)

eriknijkamp (3739477) | about 5 months ago | (#47413765)

If web-devs need to check their websites on 40+ mobile devices, 5+ browsers, 4+ operating systems, ... this ends up with testing more than 200 combinations and ~$15k in infrastructure. Sounds like fun. Anyhow, there are services like https://testobject.com/ [testobject.com] (I'm one of the founders) where you get access to real devices in your browser. We hope this will ease the pain of fragmentation.

Re:Access, YES. Buy devices, NO. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47413813)

Managing an own device pool >5 is pain in the a*** and expensive. I prefer cloud tools like perfecto or device anywhere. TestObject is quite new, I saw it last week and it's really easy and straight forward. @Erik good job!

Re:Access, YES. Buy devices, NO. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47413959)

Cool Toool :) just uploaded my app on 25 devices in less then 2 minutes. Thanks for sharing...

Re:Access, YES. Buy devices, NO. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47414117)

seems nice, but you only have android devices!

Re:Access, YES. Buy devices, NO. (1)

Leonti (3739733) | about 5 months ago | (#47414293)

Given that iOS is not that fragmented (you only need to test on a few devices) it's not really all that necessary. With Android on the other hand it's a nightmare to test if you want to cover a lot - versions, APIs, permissions, vendor modifications, etc.

Re:Access, YES. Buy devices, NO. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47417325)

With Android on the other hand it's a nightmare to test if you want to cover a lot

You mean "if you want to support a lot of devices, you have to test with a lot of devices". Nothing to do with Android specifically.

Re:Access, YES. Buy devices, NO. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47415427)

How many devices are available on testobject?

Xamarin Test Cloud (1)

Mike Quickenton (2935751) | about 5 months ago | (#47414461)

http://xamarin.com/test-cloud [xamarin.com] They have a "data center" of phones that they have somehow virtualized. Cool stuff really.
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