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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Effectively Testing Reader Access To Your Blog

People reporting a problem with blog access / performance, in Blogger Help Forum: Get Help with an Issue, will be frequently advised to diagnose their problems using affinity / differential testing.

Some diagnostic advice starts with simple instructions to "clear cache, cookies, and sessions". Some people, alternately, advise "use a different browser" - and test as a reader. These different strategies, seemingly redundant, will frequently lead to different results.

When you test reader access to a blog, some experts will casually advise you to "use a different browser" or "use a second computer".

There are specific reasons why this strategy may or may not be successful, when part of affinity / differential testing. When you test blog access, you're going to see varying reliability - based on a number of browser and reader details.

There are multiple ways to test blog access, of owner vs readers.

Any experienced testing technician knows that the most reliable testing, in affinity / differential analysis, will use identical browsers, on identical and separate computers.

Very few blog owners will have use of a bank of identical computers, for testing. There are alternate possibilities, when identical computers can't be used.

  • This browser, in the primary session - after "clear cache, cookies, and sessions".
  • This browser, in a secondary session - aka "Incognito" / "Private" browsing.
  • A different browser, on the same computer.
  • The same branded browser, on a different computer.
  • Any browser, on a different computer.

All of these details will be relevant, sometimes - though not always. The differences between "always" and "sometimes" will lead to some testers using incomplete testing techniques - and cause inconsistent results.

This browser, in the primary session - after "clear cache, cookies, and sessions".

The best way to avoid environment based inaccuracy is to re use the environment, sequentially. This approach requires more time - plus development of a testing script, to keep testing procedures consistent.

It is, however, the best way to avoid confusion from inevitable testing variations.

Using the same browser, in the same browser session, one can try using a different identity. This technique starts with the apocryphal instructions to "clear cache, cookies, and sessions".

This browser, in a secondary session - aka "Incognito" / "Private" browsing.

Some browsers support multiple sessions. In Chrome, a secondary session is provided as "Incognito" mode - and in Firefox, a similar (not identical) option is called "Private" browsing. The differences between the "Incognito" and "Private" features are significant - and can cause different testing results.


This blog, displayed in "Incognito" mode.



A different browser, on the same computer.

Each different browser will have differences in the browser itself. Plus, different add-ons and settings, on the different browsers, will produce differing results.

Having both browsers on the same computer will eliminate computer setup differences, present when multiple computers are involved.

The same branded browser, on a different computer.

If the branded browser, on the two computers, is maintained identically, there is a chance for consistent results. Having two different computers involved, however, may offset the consistency gained by using identical browsers.

Any browser, on a different computer.

This is the most inaccurate testing procedure, of the choices listed. Any difference between the browsers, or computers, can lead to inaccuracy.

The differences, in testing, involve multiple details.

  • Login identity in use.
  • Cookie filters, that block identity.
  • Script filters, that block identity access.
  • Browser add-ons, that may or may not be present.
  • Browser brand and design differences.

Login identity in use.

This is the one difference that you intentionally need, to test the reader experience. In the primary session, you are logged in as the owner. You require at least one secondary session - where you are not logged in as the owner, to test your blog as a reader.

The secondary session is where the need for sequential session reuse - or use of a different browser and / or computer - becomes necessary.

Cookie filters, that block identity.

Many Blogger features - involving both the dashboard, and access to the blog - use cookies to determine identity and permissions. Cookie filters, inappropriately managed, can cause havoc with Blogger. As an example, consider commenting ability, and third party cookies.

Different browsers may have different cookie filter settings. In some cases, identity is not relevant, for testing as a reader.

If you are testing access to a private blog, though, reader identity - which is cookie based - will be essential. A cookie filter involved, with a private blog being tested, will cause problems.

Similarly, testing Google+ comments requires known identity - for both the blog owner and readers. With Google+, identity is essential, to guarantee consistent display of comments.

Script filters, that block identity access.

Many Blogger features - involving both the dashboard, and content in the blog - are JavaScript based. Script filters can cause havoc with Blogger.

Different browsers may have different script filter settings - and different browser brands may have completely different script filters.

Browser add-ons, that may or may not be present.

The Firefox browser does not have native script filters, so many computer owners who use Firefox will add NoScript.

NoScript is a very intense add-on, with a lot of options, and opportunities for confusion. If you were to use Firefox on two different computers, you would need to carefully synchronise NoScript settings on both computers, for reliable testing.

Firefox with NoScript is the best known example - but it's not the only possibility for confusion. Every browser can have script filters, which will make browser to browser testing comparison a challenge.

With Chrome, one can select each individual add-on to be present in the secondary session ("Allow in incognito") - and this will create uncertainty. Some advice to "try using a Chrome incognito window" will be successful, with other advice being useless - and the absence or presence of the necessary add-on will be one of the issues.


AdBlock, optionally included in incognito mode, will produce uncertainty in testing - and is a well known script block.



Browser brand and design differences.

Every different browser produces differences in displayed content. Even a formatting discrepancy can lead to difference in test results.

The end results.

Interpreting test results, based on comparison of different browser displays, will be a challenge for anybody trying to produce reliable conclusions. The most reliable results will come from testing using the same browser session, sequentially. This will start with instructions to "clear cache, cookies, and sessions" - a painful but necessary process.



Many #Blogger problems need to be diagnosed using repetitive testing, and affinity / differential analysis. People who don't understand organised testing will sometimes recommend testing procedures, such as use of different browser sessions - which will produce inconclusive results.

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