Sauce Labs, Cosplay, and Cross-Browser Testing: How One Small Business Owner Found Her Sidekick
If you have an e-commerce site, cross-browser testing is a must. But often business owners try to do everything on their own—I know I did. Hunting down mobile devices, wasting hours testing Chrome, Safari, and every other browser. If you’re thinking there’s got to be a better way, you’re right. It’s time to find your sidekick.
As small business owners, we have to work with what we have, not just when it comes to tools or resources, but often with skills and knowledge as well. We try to do everything ourselves. Accounting, sales, customer service—we wear every hat, even when it doesn’t fit.
The Origin Story
In fact, it was that very idea of doing it myself that led me to start my own business in the first place. I love Halloween; something about dressing up and pretending to be someone else just gets my big dork heart racing. Growing up, my mom always made our costumes, but as I got older I was disappointed by the lack of originality when it came to store-bought costumes. A big part of wearing a costume is being able to feel like your favorite fictional character, but how can you really immerse yourself when you’re dressed in the same Target or Walmart costume as everyone else?
After years of going to cosplay events and Halloween parties wearing off-the-rack masks and capes, I was fed up with the lack of creativity in the costume market, so I taught myself how to sew. Myself and friends debuted my homemade wares at a cosplay convention, and after the overwhelming barrage of compliments and attention, I decided right then to start a business that provided others with the same exciting feeling of wearing a costume as unique as the characters themselves.
Now, a year and a half into running Cosplay Managed—and trying to handle every aspect of the business myself—I’ve learned a lot. There are a ton of things I just didn’t know as a first-time business owner, but like a lot of business owners, I didn’t ask for help. I just tried figuring it all out on my own, which led to a lot of discouragement.
Small Business Kryptonite: Cross-Browser Testing
One area that was a huge time suck and just a general pain was trying to make sure my professional website looked…well, professional. There are so many different devices, screen sizes, and operating systems that it can be difficult to ensure all my customers are getting the best experience possible.
Luckily, I had some great friends and family members who would loan me their devices so I could manually check my site on each one, but this created a whole slew of additional problems. I’d have to get them to set a temporary password, wait for the device to boot up, and shut down the million things running in the background (spyware, open tabs, etc.). All this before I could even start testing, which took about 15 to 25 minutes for each device—if I was lucky.
But I knew this was an area of my business where I couldn’t cut any corners. About 56 percent of Cosplay Managed customers come in through a mobile device, so I had to make sure they had a smooth, bug-free experience no matter which device or browser they used (IE, FF, Safari, Chrome, Opera, etc.).
A Hero Emerges
After about four months of doing this all on my own, I decided it was time to call in the experts. I knew about Sauce Labs from my day job as a business analyst for a very large company (over 50,000 employees). We use them for our cloud-based cross-browser testing and have been happy with their service for some time, but I thought for sure they’d be too expensive or just too complicated for my needs (they offer over 900 desktop/mobile/tablet browser-platform combinations). I researched some of their competitors but couldn’t find any that offered the same security and provided a user interface that was simple and easy to use.
Sauce Labs was just so intuitive and streamlined that it was hard to settle for anything less. For example, when I was looking at BrowserStack, each new test would run in a new window, whereas in Sauce Labs I could run multiple tests in the same window using different tabs. This may not sound like a big deal, but when you’re running 10 tests at a time, all those windows start to clutter your screen and can make bouncing back and forth to check on each one a rather annoying task. This streamlined approach is apparent throughout Sauce Labs. One advantage, however, I did see in BrowserStack was the ability to take screenshots from each of the open windows, but in Sauce Labs, you have to open each test and take your own individual screenshot. But after all my research, that was truly the only advantage I found that BrowserStack had over Sauce Labs.
During my conversations with BrowserStack, another red flag appeared that gave me pause. Due to a recent hack in their system, I was worried about my liability in case of another breach. They told me that if they got sued, then I could too. My customers’ data and privacy is extremely important to me, and the last thing I want to worry about is compromising their information and subsequent legal troubles. That alone was enough for me to at least give Sauce Labs a shot, even though I didn’t think they’d be able to fit my budget.
I figured why not just sign up for their free month trial and see if I could learn the common issues my site experienced and just remember them for the future. Soon after signing up, however, a sales person reached out to me to see how they could help, and after taking the time to learn about my business, they actually adjusted the price to fit the size of my company—one employee (me!) and a few very amazing friends. This interest in helping me succeed blew me away; it’s not often this day in age that a company treats you like a person, not just another revenue stream.
My Secret Sauce
Getting started was a breeze. I cut my time down from about a week of hunting, begging, and borrowing and then almost half an hour testing each device/browser to performing manual testing in under a minute! I can run 10 virtual machines (VM) at one time.
Now, I’m not only saving my time, but I’m also saving the time of my friends and family who would have to sacrifice their devices. And if developers have questions or need to do a minor tweak—let’s say I found a bug and they need to do a quick front-end change—they can make the change and I can test the fix in less time than it used to take me to run one test on a desktop.
This confidence in my customer’s mobile experience, no matter the device or browser, is extremely reassuring, especially when I’m at an event. For instance, this past October I set up a vendor table at the Harry Potter Festival in Edgerton, WI. It was my first event as a vendor, and I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. The event organizers projected an attendance of 5,000+ people. The turnout? Over 50,000 Harry Potter fans! The crowd was terrific, and I sold out in only five hours. After my booth was picked clean, I pointed people to my website to check out my costumes and place orders. Having the confidence that every one of those potential customers could see a beautiful, working website no matter the device or browser made my experience at the event that much more enjoyable.
The experience I gained from Sauce Labs is that everyone is different and uses different devices and browsers to find my store. They’re not all IE and Chrome, but Firefox and Opera and Safari. As a business owner, I have to be aware of those differences and test and adjust my site to give each one of them an optimum experience.
It’s funny; as a cosplay advocate and business owner, I’m acutely aware of how important it is to embrace our differences and allow everyone to find the costume that’s as unique as they are—as the characters are—but in my business, the fear of letting go of the reins, just a little bit, was keeping me from providing the best experience for each and every one of my customers. So, if you’re a business owner struggling to wear every hat, remember: We all have our own super powers, but none of us have all of them. And that’s ok. That’s what sidekicks are for.