Console browser testing


After writing about the Nintendo DSi browser in July, I began exploring more of the game console browser landscape. I wrote to A List Apart to ask if they'd be interested in running a piece on it, and they said yes. On Tuesday, that article was published.

Getting the consoles

I set aside a budget of £500 and aimed to get the widest range of devices rather than the most devices possible. I leaned towards the newest models to get an idea of what people are using now and over the next couple of years.

  • I'd already bought a second hand DSi which was cheap because it wasn't in great condition and missing the stylus, but it was perfect for me.
  • I already had a PS3, and it was a good device to test sites with using a conventional controller.
  • Aral very kindly lent me his Wii (although these are selling for around £40 second hand).
  • I bought a second hand PS Vita which I was able to get relatively cheaply because the screen had a dead pixel. This device comes in two flavours; wifi and wifi+3G, so I guessed people are buying it for its internet capabilities.
  • The Xperia Play was a good way to test what it was like using a phone/console hybrid. In hindsight, I don't think it was that good a choice because it's so similar to a phone, but it was useful for comparison.
  • The 3DSXL was about to come out and I wanted to see what using a 3D screen was like and it has a different browser to the DSi, so I ordered one of those. This was the most expensive device because I had to order it new. I could have bought a smaller, cheaper 3DS model, but I wanted to test the larger screens. It doesn't come with a power adaptor which is annoying, so I had to buy this separately.

It might seem excessive to spend this much on testing devices, but I am doing a lot of research with them. I can also claim them as a business expense because I'm not doing anything fun with them (I don't even have games for them). I also keep them in Clearleft's test lab so other people can benefit from using them.

Writing the article

The article took 2 months to write in my free time. I spent the first month doing research, sometimes taking the portable consoles round with me for the day to see what they were like to properly use. I also read a lot of articles and reports, trying to find out how many people had a console, what demographics used each one, and specifically, how many used the browsers in them. I didn't think I would be able to find any data on the latter, but at the end of the first month, I found 2 separate sources from Ofcom and Pew Internet, and overall the numbers were much higher than I'd expected.

I spent half of the second month gathering my notes into something vaguely readable, and the other half working with the editor, Sara, who was so encouraging and did such an amazing job that I never want to write anything again without her input.

I found out there would be a big Wii U announcement on the 13th, which fitted in nicely with my article due to be published on the 11th. I spent the days leading up to this worrying that there would be new information but it would be too late to put in.

I'm so relieved now the article is out. It was definitely the most challenging thing I've written and I was so happy with the response. I'm also looking forward to sharing more of what I've learnt about console browsers. There was a huge amount I couldn't fit in the article.