Testing Web Pages

After generating a web page, you should test it. What looks good in your editor may not render well on a web browser. What's worse, different web browsers render HTML in different ways, so what works well with one browser may work poorly with another. I recommend performing two types of test:

HTML Validation Tests A variety of automated tools exist to check an HTML file for common errors. Examples include HTML::Lint (http://sourceforge.net/proiects/html-lint/), the Weblint Gateway (http://eik.cso.uiuc.edu/cgi-bin/weblint), and Bobby (http://bobby.watchfire.com/bobby/html/en/). Some of these tools, including the latter two, are web-based, and so require that your page be accessible from a web server. If you run your web page through such a test and discover that it has problems, you may want to correct them. Be aware, though, that some of these tools are very conservative and may report issues that won't cause problems with any common web browser. Some, such as Bobby, are intended to help you design pages that are not only good HTML, but that are also accessible to those with impaired vision or other problems.

Multibrowser Viewing Tests You should try viewing your web page in several different web browsers. The most important of these is arguably

Microsoft's Internet Explorer, which is the single most popular web browser by a wide margin. Others you may want to try include Netscape, Mozilla, Galeon, Konqueror, Opera, and lynx. (Chapter 8, "Miscellaneous User Tools," describes web browsers in more detail.) Many browsers, including Netscape, Mozilla, and Galeon, use the same underlying rendering tool, and so should render pages in much the same way. If possible, you should test your page from at least two or three operating systems and using a variety of system settings, such as different color depths and screen sizes. Note also that the features available to a browser vary greatly across software versions. For instance, a page that displays well in Netscape 6.0 might not display well in Netscape 4.5.

Tip The lynx browser is unusual because it's entirely text-based. As such, it's a good test of how your page will work if a user has shut off automatic graphics loading or for users with visual impairments, who browse the Web using text-to-speech software.

As a general rule, simple web pages are more portable than are complex web pages. Some sites create very complex designs—complex enough that their web servers may deliver web pages customized for particular clients. This approach to web page design is risky because it's likely to cause problems for users with unusual browsers or browser settings. For more information on creating websites that are accessible to all users, consult the Bobby web page or the Any Browser Campaign site, http://www.anybrowser.org/campaign/.

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