I’m alive!! Sorry for being away so long…it’s been over a month since I’ve posted anything. What with Christmas and Thanksgiving book ending a very busy month it’s no wonder I haven’t posted anything. But I apologize, I will get back on track with blogging.
Recently I had a conversation with a co-worker of mine and he asked about the importance of monitoring from an actual browser (that is, automating a transaction for the purposes of performance and availability measurements from an actual browser vs. an emulated browser), whether it was necessary, and if necessary, what type of browser should be used.
Well, the answer is that it depends. It all depends on what your goals are. I’ve talked about this before and the reality is that you only need to test from an actual browser if your goal is to get very accurate metrics on your end users experience. Furthermore you want to match that end user perspective with your actual end users…therefore, if the majority of your users are accessing your application with IE then you you should consider a monitoring solution that uses IE. If they access the site with FF more frequently then a solution using FF should be considered. That’s not a hard and fast rule (unless you’ve developed your site for a specific type of browser – which happens quite often with IE) the important thing is that when you’re trying to get accurate user representation you should use an actual browser. If you’re not trying to get actual user representations with your monitoring then don’t stay up at night worrying about the browser type used (in fact you’ll probably want to use an emulated browser solution which will be cheaper).
So why the blog post? The conversation progressed on into a debate about browser neutrality. In other words, what if someone wanted an accurate end user perspective that doesn’t favor one type of browser over the other? Ultimately this is not a good situation to be in because you’re going to make so many trade offs that your initial objective will not be met. Here are your objectives:
- Primary: Get an accurate end user perspective.
- Secondary: Use a browser independent monitoring solution.
The primary objective is easy to accomplish by using a monitoring platform that utilizes an actual browser (you’ll need to consider what type of browser is important to you: IE, FF, Safari, etc.). The secondary objective is self defeating and undermines the primary objective. There is no way to take the standard parts of FF, the standard parts of IE, the standard parts of Safari, and every other browser on the market and somehow create a super browser that will provide you with an accurate end user perspective. In order to provide such a solution the browser would have to be re-built by hand and incorporate different (which would in turn move you further away from any real world user experience). In other words, as the neutrality of the browser increases the accuracy of the end user perspective decreases.
It’s just one of those things, the two previously mentioned objectives are inversely correlated…addressing one of them will negatively impact the other. It’s an important lesson, if you’re going to go after accurate end user perspectives with monitoring then you’ll have to abandon any notion of a browser neutral environment. When monitoring, always define your objectives and give them weight, be ready to analyze dependencies between them and be willing to make concessions (or at least know what concessions you’re comfortable with).