The ArleyM Browser Challenge!

February 25, 2012 - By

One unexpected side effect to my Six Revisions post Will the Browser Wars Invade the Mobile Web? was getting a lot of comments and tweets from Opera employees and devoted users. I had written my article thinking only about the native browsers that came with the respective platform, but had neglected to consider third party browsers like Opera. I mean, how many people are going out of their way to download another browser when their device has one? Opera is apparently the most used mobile browser according to Stat Counter. Shock your QA Manager.

This got me thinking about how I never consider Opera as a major browser despite its following. To my credit I have it installed on my Mac and PC, but rarely open the program for more than a couple minutes of site testing. I thought of a fun way to change that. 

My challenge to myself was a simple one: Starting on the 1st of every month I will  change my primary browser at work to experience some of the different pros and cons to each app. Considerations include the overall experience, UI and what they do to websites.

I plan to document specifically what I like and dislike about each browser in turn, but have already discovered some general things about myself.

  1. Changing my main browser at work AND at home proved too difficult. Even though I don’t really work at home, I’m not as in the mood for “big change” there.
  2. I hate change! It’s been extremely difficult to switch from my long-time troubleshooting companion Firebug. Even with very similar web inspectors I can get very frustrated at dealing with differences when I’m trying to find solutions to a problem.
  3. The default browser decision is one that is way more personal than I thought it would be. Even just for this worth-while experiment it’s been hard.

I will share some of my results from the specific browser tests soon!

I started with one month testing periods. My first month was Opera, February was meant to be Safari, but there were some deal breakers, and a month was way too long to fathom putting up with it (Safari has since had an update so I’ll be going back to it). After a day I gave up and “took the month off” going back to Chrome and Firefox.

A month is probably too long, so going forward I plan to do this for a week at a time, but be more aggressive in my documenting. I also think these shorter spans will give me an appetite to do this a couple times a year (or as the browsers update).

March 1st is coming up: Are you in?

Have a look at the analytics for the sites you work on and see what the most popular browser is (probably IE8!). Do you really know what your audience is experiencing?

It’s not the easiest thing to do, but I highly recommend that you as a web producer change up your primary browser a few times a year, even just for short periods. Try the most popular browsers for a week at the time.

If you’re up for this challenge I want to hear what you find!

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This post was written by ArleyM