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Test Your Site with the iPhone and iPad

One huge advantage of focusing on the iPad/iPhone as you design a website is that you can relatively easily test your designs. Even if you have only the desktop version of Safari (available on both the Mac and Windows operating systems), you can adequately approximate the way your website will display on an iPhone or iPad.

Every mobile designer worth his salt admits that you can do only so much with tools on a desktop computer to simulate what users do on a live iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch.

The following list describes only some of the problems that might not show up on your computer but can arise when your web designs are viewed on a portable iOS device:

  • Your color scheme is unreadable under harsh daylight conditions.

  • Tapping your navigation links is frustrating, or even impossible, given the limited interface options of a touchscreen device. (Remember that thicker fingers need more room to tap.)

  • Having your highly interactive page open may drain the battery more quickly.

You can't know these things sitting in a comfy chair in a safe, air-conditioned office with all the power of your desktop computer and the interface options of a mouse and keyboard.

True mobile gurus say that the best option is to have shelves, drawers, or closets overflowing with testing units, but most settle for a representative sampling of the most common devices. If you don’t have the resources to keep all versions of the iPhone and iPad on hand for testing, consider these options:

  • Use the "friends and family" plan. Ask all your friends and family members which kinds of phones they use, and then enlist them as testers for your site or sites.

  • Use social networks: The next stage in assembling an ad hoc mobile testing network is to start reaching out to people on social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and LinkedIn. You can send messages to your connections in the networks and ask people to visit your site and describe any problems they see.

  • Join professional associations. Join Mobile Monday or any other group of web designers, and attend (or organize) gatherings where you get together and test each other’s sites.

  • Visit an Apple Store in person. Make frequent trips to the Apple Store, but remember that it generally has only the latest devices and isn’t able to help if you want to ensure your designs work in the iPhone 1.0.

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