On Testing Joomla Templates

These days it’s more important than ever to test Joomla templates and websites properly. While it might seem to convergence of web browsers towards Webkit technology has simplified testing for the web, the opposite might be just as true.

Who built the template?

The key factor that is critical to assess the need for testing Joomla templates and the thoroughness with which that has been done.

You’ve built it yourself

Even though you might be a great developer of Joomla templates, chances are you’ve made a little mistake here and there. The templates have to account for a great variety of potential combination of settings and will therefore be complicated. Within this category there is a difference between building a template from scratch, or building it on top of a template framework such as T3 or Gantry. While I’m sure such frameworks will contain a bug here and there as well, they have also been tested by dozens (or even thousands) of people, whilst your own template code most like has not been. The less standardized code you’re using, the more testing you should do.

Built with a generator such as Artisteer

These ‘generated’ templates are more likely than specialized templates to contain bugs. Because of the huge variety of variations that these generators have to account for when converting a design to a template, there is a higher risk that problems emerge. While a specialized template will be tested based on the settings and variables that are unique to that particular template, the templates from a generator can only be tested as a whole. It is therefore your job to test the actual result that is generated by the tool that you’re using.

You’re using a free Joomla template

Keep in mind what the motivation of the template developer was. Perhaps this free template is meant to show off what the capabilities of a template developer are. In that case, the developer has likely spent a lot of time developing this template in order to make sure his best work shows true. However, there is also a chance that the template was developed by an amateur template developer that just fiddled around a bit and created something decent-looking. As always, I’m not trying to down talk some of the great free Joomla templates that are out there, instead I’m just trying to make you realize that sometimes a free template isn’t free for no reason.

You’re using a professional Joomla template

Yes, even professional templates should be tested thoroughly. While the chances of bugs are minimal compared to the other options, there will still slip bugs through the cracks. Also, your customizations or specific combination of Joomla settings might also cause the template to behave in ways the developers might not have predicted or tested themselves.

How to do the testing?

You should test your Joomla website throughout your website development process. Start by installing the your template on a clean Joomla installation (or perhaps one with example data). Some template developers also offer Quick Installation packages, that allow you to create a Joomla instance with the template pre-installed, and specific demo data (often including images, modules, plugins, etc.) as well. What elements should you pay special attention to?

Browsers

Make sure you template works on the latest versions of all modern browsers (and of course on a range of medieval Internet Explorer browsers as you wish to do so). Most browsers such as Chrome, Firefox and Opera have automatic installers included, which automatically update them to the latest versions. You can safely assume the majority of people using such a browser will be running the latest version. Unfortunately, for Internet Explorer this still isn’t the case. If you want to make sure your website runs fine on those browsers, just install them on your development computer and open them regularly to make sure the template is still running as its supposed.

Browser extensions

Browsers such as Firefox and Chrome can be extended with so-called browser extensions. Those are tools that run within the browser environment. They can allow you to simplify tasks (such as bookmarking an item) or extend on the core capabilities of the browser (such as letting you view that font that was used to render a certain header tag). Unfortunately they are also known to create unexplainable changes to websites as well. Extensions might sometimes try to inject code into a website (for example to allow you to use Skype to call a phone number that is displayed), which could mess up the styling of the website. While you shouldn’t try to use every single extension to see if it breaks your site, keep these extensions in mind when your website does break down in an inexplicable way.

Responsive Joomla template?

If you’re using a responsive Joomla template, make sure to test it on as many devices and screen resolutions as possible. Even though resizing your browser window will allow you to spot a large majority of the problems that emerge when your media queries kick in, there will still be some device specific quirks that you’ll miss if this is the only way you’re testing.

It’s recommended to use at least a recent version of an iPhone, an iPad, an Android phone and a tablet running Android. Also make sure to flip the devices occasionally because this tends to create unique problems now and then that can’t be discovered in any other way than by flipping the device.

Joomla! core related

Some of the settings you can change in the Global Configuration have effect on the template as well. For example settings related to Search Engine Optimization. If you switch on URL rewriting, the changes the way links are handled internally. Make sure all your links still work after you change such a setting.

Also check what happens to your template when you switch your website offline. You never know when you might need to suddenly take your website offline, and don’t want your offline page (the only page that your visitors will see at that time!) to look badly.

Same goes for your 404 page, even though you don’t want anyone to ever see that, make sure it looks top notch. Having a great 404 pages makes the difference between a website having a slight problem but guides visitors towards their goals anyway, and a website that presents visitors with a roadblock the can’t easily pass.

Third party code

The most likely cause of problems with your template lies with third party code. Because it’s impossible to test a template with every available component, module and plugin out there, some of those (especially the improperly coded ones) might cause unexpected problems with your template. Therefore, when testing you template, make sure all the extensions that you plan to use in the final version have been enabled, and thoroughly tested (on all browsers and screen resolutions).

Also, when you add new front-end extensions to your website, make sure you repeat your testing afterwards.

Links

A website with broken links is perceived by your visitors as unprofessional. They might start wondering what other aspects of your company aren’t on par when they encounter dead links on your website. To prevent this problem from happening, regularly scan your website for broken links. There are several tools available for this, such as Xenu or Screaming Frog for Windows, or Integrity for MacOS.

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