Testing Web Pages on One Machine

I work on a Macintosh. It’s easy for me to check my sites on Safari and Firefox… and maybe even Opera if I’m bored. But how does one check out my designs for the Windows OS? There are a few options to pursue.

The first option is to buy Virtual PC for Mac. It’s from Microsoft so you know it’s legit. However, I’ve found it beyond slow on non-Intel Macs. In this environment, error messages are punchlines from often heard jokes that take too long to be delivered.

If you own an Intel Mac, you should try out Boot Camp, an Apple application that allows you to install a Windows OS on your Mac.

The downside of Boot Camp is that you have to restart and log into one or the other OS. To run both a Mac and Windows OS on the same machine, look into Parallels, which cots about 80 dollars, or Q, which is free.

Personally, I go straight to BrowserCam since I still run on a non-Intel Mac. In one place, I can check the layouts of pages on numbers browsers on the PC without having to resort to buying a separate computer or installing a piece of software on my computer.

If you own a PC and wish to test Mac browsers, you could try iSafari, however I found the web site not to be as responsive as BrowserCam.

These options should cover most of your potential audience. Just in case I missed something, maybe you could tell me how you test your web site designs?

Part-time, paid internship available

I’m looking for a talented individual for a paid part-time internship. The position is perfect for the talented individual that has a passion design and development and loves to share what they’ve learned.

The role of intern will include assisting on a variety of issues. Duties will include, not not limited to, researching web design and development issues, create and produce web sites, help creating presentations and more.

Payment isn’t much, I’m afraid, about $400/month along with any free books or schwag that we happen to come across. The position is probably perfect for the high school or college student in the design, IT or communications field.

If you’re interested, please supply links to your portfolio to schmitt@heatvision.com with INTERN in the subject line.

WordPress as CMS

One of the things I like about WordPress is its malleability. The recent article From Weblog to CMS with WordPress by John McCreesh covers how to transform an out-of-the-box blog into a simple content management system.

As an independent publisher, if you are interested in setting up something that’s not a blog, but a bit more involved than a small web site, I’d investigate WordPress as a serious option. I know I am.

The Adoption Rate of Internet Explorer 7

Web developers and designers have been dealing with the shortcomings of Internet Explorer 5+ for Windows for the last few years. Working around problems like the box model, double float margins, and so on have caused too many a designer migraine.

The promise of the numerous CSS enhancements in Internet Explorer 7 should put to the rest (most of) all hacks and workarounds.

With the WinIE7, the question arises: “When will Internet Explorer 7 get here?” Sure, we have the conference promoting the browser with the necessary promotional material, but when will others outside our industry start using the IE7? When will this new browser become something web developers will absolutely need to worry about when crafting their site designs?

Refining the Question

Depending on whom you ask (and when you asked), the release of Internet Explorer 7 will be arriving along with Windows Vista in January 2007. (Well, that’s the last I read about the launch date anyway.)

So, is January 2007 the date and time web developers need to make sure everything is ready to go for WinIE7?

While web developers will be the first to adopt the browser (if they haven’t already started tweaking with the beta release), a browser doesn’t simply come out of beta on Day 1 and start massaging the pulsating temples of weary web developers. It takes time for market penetration.

So, the questions is, “when will your users start using Internet Explorer 7?”

Finding the Answer

One way of estimating when to care about Microsoft’s new browser is to find more about the adoption rate of the current Internet Explorer over its predecessor. In other words, how long did it take for IE6 to make a difference over IE5? (For the purpose of this article, I’m combining IE5.5 with IE5.)

According to Wikipedia, Internet Explorer came out in August 27, 2001. Yes, you read that right. It’s been five years between major browser versions, if IE7 launches this year.

Now knowing the launch date of the browser, I needed some site statistics around the same time that IE6 launched.

Since I haven’t been running my own site in a consistent fashion–one year it’s a blog, one year it’s a static page, then the next year it’s a static page, now it’s a blog in need of a redesign–I couldn’t use my own site statistics.

I came across a couple of sites that publish an archive of their browser statistics. If you have been a web developer for some time, I’m sure you’ve come across their material as well.

The first site I came across was W3C Schools. They thankfully have set their statics in a nice table making it easy for me to skim for the information I was looking for.

Their browser stats shows that in 2002, IE6 support went from 30% to over 50% in the span of eleven months. At the same time, IE5 went from over 50% to less than 30% in usage. However, their statistics start after the launch of IE6. So, while interesting to note, the data is not much help to answer the question.

The next site I looked at was Engineering WorkStations from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Internet Explorer Browser Statistics from EWS Web Server
Time WinIE5(%) WinIE6(%) WinIE5 %Drop WinIE6 %Rise
Aug-01 90.6 0

na

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Sep-01 85.1 9.5 -5.5 9.5
Oct-01 80.4 14.8 -4.7 5.3
Nov-01 76 19.4 -4.4 4.6
Dec-01 71.3 24.6 -4.7 5.2
Jan-02 66.8 29.4 -4.5 4.8
Feb-02 62.2 34.6 -4.6 5.2
Mar-02 59.2 37.8 -3 3.2
Apr-02 55.3 42.1 -3.9 4.3
May-02 52.8 44.8 -2.5 2.7
Jun-02 49.8 47.9 -3 3.1
Jul-02 49.3 48.8 -0.5 0.9

Sep-02 43.6 55.1 -3.2 3.5
Oct-02 41.2 57.6 -2.4 2.5
Nov-02 39.3 59.7 -1.9 2.1

Some Analysis (Or, Truly Wild Assumptions)

  • IE6 registered almost 10% share in its second month.
  • The average drop in Internet Explorer 5 was 3.42%.
  • The average rise in Internet Explorer 6 adoption was 3.98%.
  • It took about a year before Internet Explorer 6 overtook version 5 as the main browser.

What’s interesting to me is how fast Internet Explorer 6 became on the radar for EWS. This could be for a lot of reasons we’re not privy to, but if I did have to guess as to the cause of the early adoption rate, I would wager it’s that the researchers at an engineering school are more inclined to update their machines than most of corporate America.

So, if we are to care about making our sites suitable for IE7, we have one month after the launch of IE7 to get the sites tested and prepared before not doing anything becomes a serious problem. Also, it will mean we will have to support the IE6 for at least a year after IE7’s release.

But even with the strong adoption, it still took a year for Internet Explorer 6 to become the dominant browser. (If you are Microsoft, you didn’t care because you own both IE5 and 6.)

What’s Your Number?

These statistics give a biased result. Like the W3C Schools, this EWS source probably serves a technical savvy audience. And they work great for EWS. Since they are their statistics, they can make predictions and plans based off them without fear they are off. For the rest of us, that’s not the case.

To get hard date for your own site, you will check the log files to determine what browsers are being used. Make the determination of when you should start preparing for Internet Explorer 7.

So, if you have a site that’s been around since August 2001. Take a look through your own log files and discover the adoption rate of IE6 over IE5.

  • How long did it take for IE6 to gain 5% browser share? 10%?
  • How long did it take for IE6 to become the dominant browser your visitors use?

Once you find out the answers, please post them in the comments to let myself and other people know too.

The Movie Industry Gets It Half-Right

screencapture of movielink.com

I applaud the developments of the movie industry to allow the downloading of movies through a new venture called Movielink.

The mere existence of this initiative doesn’t help their arguments made during the 2006 Oscars: nothing replaces the magic of going to the movies and that downloading movies therefore is like reading a graphic novel of a classic book.

But at least the movie studios realize that argument isn’t going to work on people paying through the nose for high-speed Internet connection. Also, the masses are going to go after what they want, even if Widescreen is better than Fullscreen.

Welcome to the future, Movie Industry. Sort of.

While you are actually acknowledging the desires of your customers by creating this service, you’re not quite there as evidenced by this warning message I received when I tried to use the site (emphasis is mine):

Sorry, but as of May 2, 2005, Movielink no longer supports Windows 98 and ME operating systems. Movielink also does not support Mac or Linux.

In order to enjoy the Movielink service, you must use Windows 2000 or XP, which support certain technologies we utilize for downloading movies.

I’ll grant the movie industry some slack in acknowledging that most people are using a flavor of Microsoft OS including, I don’t know, say, movie studio bosses. However, movie studios are denying so many people by relying on technology that’s OS-specific. Open up the system in order it works with other systems. Why? It means more customers.

If the only hurdles are the cost of software and servers, think about how much money was spent on Waterworld. Spare your customers another mega-motion picture failure and, instead, recreate your business model. In the end that would truly be great movie magic.