The Bocoup Open Device Lab

I’ve always been a huge proponent of building sites that work everywhere — any user, any browser, any device, any context. Websites work everywhere by default, and they stay that way so long as we know how not to break them. That’s what the Open Web means to me: ensuring that entire populations just setting foot on the web for the first time will find it welcoming, regardless of the devices or connections used to get there.

It sounds like hubris, I know, but it’s achievable — and not assuming a fictional single-page project with an unlimited budget. It’s achievable in our day-to-day work by cultivating better development habits; by tailoring the way we work and the decisions we make about a project around ensuring universal access to the web. To do that, we need to look outside of our own browsing contexts.

Whether they land on a list of “supported browsers” or not, people will be using the things we build on their phones and tablets — new and old ones alike — across a huge range of browsers and OSes. Regardless of disclaimers, our users and our clients are going to expect things to work in whatever context is most comfortable for them. Hardware-accelerated animations that enhance a user experience on a desktop browser can be reduced to a slow, choppy disaster of an experience on a real device, and we can’t know about that without looking at it on a real device. If we’re not careful, we’re likely to run afoul of major bugs even in the modern (read: “easy”) mobile browsers like newer Android and iOS. Many of these issues can be fixed with minimal effort, but not if they’re out of both sight and mind.

So, I’m excited to announce that we’ve started work on the Bocoup Open Device Lab. We’ll be Boston’s first open device lab, along the lines of Clearleft’s lab in Brighton (UK). Anyone will be able to stop by to test their company’s projects, their client work, their open-source work, or even their personal sites on any of our devices.

Humble Beginnings

We’re just starting out, but so far we’ve managed to round up some of the more common — and/or problematic — mobile devices and OSes.

Make Model OS
Apple iPhone 4S iOS 7.1.2
Apple iPad (2nd gen) iOS 5.1.1
Samsung Galaxy Appeal Android 2.3.3 (Gingerbread)
LG Optimus Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread)
HTC G2 Android 2.3.4 (Gingerbread)
Samsung Galaxy Music Android 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
Kyocera Event Android 4.0.4 (Ice Cream Sandwich)
AT&T Radiant Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)
Samsung Galaxy Tab Android 4.4 (Kitkat)
Google Nexus 4 Android 4.4.2 (Kitkat)
Samsung Focus Windows Phone 7.5
HTC PC40210 Windows Phone 7.8
Nokia Lumia 520 Windows Phone 8.1
Blackberry 9650 OS 6.0
Blackberry Playbook OS 2.1.0.1917
ZTE Test Driver Boot2Gecko 1.2.0.0

We’re still just getting started, but consider our open device lab open for business. If you’d like to stop by and do some testing, shoot an email to opendevicelab@bocoup.com or send us a tweet at @BocoupODL with a little advance notice, and we’ll make sure that everything you need is ready to use.

Get Involved

Give us your tired, your poor, your outdated devices yearning to be let out of the junk drawer in your kitchen. If you’ve got old devices that you don’t use, consider granting them a new lease on life by contributing them to the Bocoup Open Device Lab, then stop by to pay them a visit anytime.

An open test lab ends up not only providing an encyclopedic knowledge of mobile browser gotchas to us, but the entire web developer community through the information we share with each other. These kinds of resources lead to stronger work, better development habits, and a more inclusive web on all counts.

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