Mobile app development. Responsive web design. These are the buzzwords of our time, brought on by an explosion of devices through which people are connecting. Even as recently as five years ago, testing your web sites meant checking them in Internet Explorer and Firefox; If your sites looked good on those two browsers, that covered about 90% of your possible audience. Things are very, very different today.
Not only do we have a handful of other formidable desktop web browsers with a sizable audience, but there are a myriad of handheld Internet-enabled devices to take into account. Tablets, smartphones, and hybrids of the two account for upwards of 20% of the traffic on the Internet today, and that number is only going to get bigger in the years to come. Responsible developers and designers can’t just ignore mobile and assume that what they make is going to look good.
The big agencies have this covered. Big agencies mean big budgets and lots of devices for testing. Unfortunately, the rest of us don’t have it as easy. We have to scrounge devices from our friends or depend on the quality of device emulators to see how our work looks on many of these devices. It doesn’t have to be this way, and today we’re taking the first step toward overcoming this hurdle.
The Salt Mines Device Lab aims to be a resource available to designers and developers in the greater Columbus area who want to make sure their work looks its best across a wide range of Internet-connected devices. This is an effort modeled after several successful labs around the world, such as the Open Device Lab in Helsinki where dozens of devices are available for testing. There are already a handful of device labs in the United States, and we have a unique opportunity to lead in this area by building our own right here in Columbus, Ohio. But we will need your help in order to get there.
Right now, The Salt Mines Device Lab consists of personal devices on temporary loan from some of The Salt Mines’ members. A first generation iPad, an iPhone 3Gs, and an iPhone 4 are the only permanent devices we have on hand. We’re asking for the Columbus developer community to help in one of three specific ways.
Have an old device? Donate it to the cause!
Maybe you just upgraded to the new Kindle Fire, or got a new Android phone. You could sell the old one for a few bucks, or you could help the Columbus development community at large by making it available in the Device Lab. And if the good feeling of helping your fellow developer isn’t enough of an incentive, you’ll get bragging rights by having your name included as a contributor on our Device Lab inventory listing.
Not quite ready to give it up? How about a loan?
Maybe you aren’t ready to full-on donate your old devices, but would still like to help out. We’re happy to take your seldom-used tablet or phone on a temporary basis. Every device in our lab is supervised during business hours, and locked up securely overnight to prevent theft. Your old devices could sit on a shelf collecting dust, or you could put them to work helping your fellow developers make better sites and applications.
Spread the word!
Even if you don’t have any devices to contribute, you can help by letting other developers — or even local businesses or family members — know what we’re doing and seeing if they have anything to contribute. As more people learn about the Device Lab, the quicker it will grow and the better our work can be.
Finally, let us know what devices you are most interested in seeing available in the Device Lab. We have a sort of big-picture vision that includes a wide variety of platforms — iOS, Android, BlackBerry and Windows — but if there are specific hardware configurations that would be helpful, please let us know in the comments so we know where best to focus our efforts.
We’re really excited about the possibilities of what we can accomplish with The Salt Mines Device Lab. One of the core philosophies behind The Salt Mines — and coworking in general — is that we all work better when we work together, and The Device Lab is a natural extension of that. Developers helping developers means we all produce better work, and when we produce better work, everyone wins.
If you or someone you know would like to make a device donation, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.