As the complexities of web development go, so goes the testing cycle. Expectations for tracking are increasing—every time you go online and check out Facebook or the weather or the score of the game, somebody, somewhere, is tracking your movement—and along with them, the requirements of developers and quality assurance analysts. Marketers want to know what you’re doing on their site so they can make informed decisions about when to update and how to optimize; it’s our job to ensure that marketers can get the information they need.
There’s only one way to truly test tracking, and that is through the platform that is serving the ads, such as Doubleclick or Google Analytics. And the only way to test it is to roll it out and see if it works. That leaves us testers in a bit of a pickle.
Since there is no opportunity to test these services before we have actually made them live, we rely on a few tools to help us along the way. They’re called proxy sniffers—tools that allow developers and QA analysts to see all the HTTP traffic that occurs between your computer and the Internet. This means that we can see every page impression, every click, and every cookie that is set while we’re on that page. Using these tools, we can see if the right code is there and whether the tag executes the expected behavior.
These particular tools are easy to use and are helpful for testing:
This free proxy sniffer for Internet Explorer allows testers to see all the HTTP traffic that occurs when a user visits the page and clicks on any links.
This free proxy sniffer offers the same services as HttpWatch, but for Firefox users. It gives testers easy access to all of the behind-the-scenes traffic that’s happening on the page.
This easy-to-use paid service (don’t worry they have a trial version!) is another reverse-proxy program that lets testers view any and all HTTP and SSL traffic that’s occurring between their computers and the Internet. Unlike HttpFox and HttpWatch, Charles works with any browser—a definite plus.
While each of these tools has its nuances, they all serve the same function. We can’t know for sure that the tracking is working correctly until it is live, but we can know for sure whether it is in place, and that’s a great place to start testing.