It’s time for some MonT-SteR Consternation™.
One of the maddening things about building Web pages is cross-browser compatibility. Most modern browsers are standards-based, which means that solid CSS designs will display consistently whether you’re using Firefox, IE7, Safari, Opera, etc.
The fly in the ointment is IE6, which is regularly cursed by beleaguered Web designers the world over by virtue of its plethora of CSS rendering bugs.
“IE6 is old, Rob,” you say. “Just stop supporting it. People need to upgrade.”
Au contraire, mon frère (ou mon soeur, s’il vous plaît). People do need to upgrade, but somewhere around a third of all Internet users continue to use IE6 for a multitude of reasons. I’m sure there are plenty of individual users who don’t upgrade because they don’t know how, or IE6 feels like home, or they heard someone badmouth IE7 because of its updated UI, or they don’t know about Firefox, ad infinitum. But it’s not just home users. There are plenty of corporations with beefy IT departments out there refusing to upgrade as well.
Until usage statistics for IE6 drop to infinitesimal levels, it stubbornly remains a thorn in the flesh. And beleaguered Web designers who use the Mac tend to curse IE6 even more, because Microsoft stopped building IE for the Mac at version 5.2. How do we test our designs?
Enter Browsershots.org and CrossBrowserTesting.com, which provide free (and paid) online browser testing without the hassle of finagling your system to run IE6 alongside other modern browsers. The former will give you a screenshot of your web design displayed in the browser of your choice. Helpful, but slow — even if you pay the $15 for a month of priority testing. On the other hand, CrossBrowserTesting.com provides what amounts to a remote desktop session in your browser window using your requested computer/browser configuration. And it offers more flexibility for paid users with subscription and pay-as-you-go models.
Sounds good, right? Yes, but with one significant caveat (and here’s where the “emptor” comes in).
I was excited about CrossBrowserTesting.com until I noticed that my credits were disappearing way too fast for how much I was using the service. It turns out that partially used credits are not carried over from one remote session to the next. For me, the net result was that I lost almost a third of the 30 credits I purchased. When I discovered this, my slack-jawed disbelief turned to anger. And I vowed to warn others.
Consider yourself warned. If you go with the pay-as-you-go service, you will lose credits unless you use all of them in a single remote session. It doesn’t matter how unused a partial credit is; whether 20% or 99%, that credit goes bye-bye forever when you end your remote session. And so does your money. Granted, credits cost about 20 cents each or less, but it can add up — especially if you go whole hog and opt for 500 credits at $200. Imagine losing a third of that, and you’ll see red as well.
To be fair, CrossBrowserTesting.com does state that partially used credits do not carry over. My surprise at this after the fact was my fault — chalk it up to failing to read the fine print. And there is a monthly subscription option with a flat fee of $29.95 for the first month and $19.95 each month thereafter for unlimited priority testing (FYI: these rates will soon be raised by $10 a month). Obviously, that would solve the disappearing credits issue.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should also mention that when I complained bitterly to CrossBrowserTesting.com about losing almost an hour of testing time, they gave me complimentary credits to cover the loss. But they were also unapologetic about their pricing structure, stating that it’s a common practice in the industry.
Funny, but that everybody-else-does-it argument never worked on my mom.
aka The MonT-SteR