FireFox user agent switcher

User agent switcher

I’ve been working on our mobile site a lot lately and found this great FireFox plugin that has helped me a great deal. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at how newspaper sites present their mobile-friendly WAP sites. WAP usability and interface designs are wildly different in comparison to their full-featured main websites.

The tricky thing about investigating mobile sites is that many of them sniff out your user agent and redirect you to the mobile site only if they detect you are using a mobile browser. Several actually filter in the other direction as well.

Try this little test and you will see exactly what I mean. Try going to mobile.nytimes.com (new window) in your browser right now. If you are using a normal browser (IE, FireFox, Safari, Opera, etc) you will be redirected to the New York Times’ main site. This redirect forces you to use an actual wireless device to surf the New York Times’ mobile version.

This, my friends, is a tad annoying when trying to investigate mobile sites.

To get around this I installed a great FireFox addon by Chris Pederick that enables me to set my user agent to any browser I’d like (including mobile browsers like the Blackberry, Iphone, Treo, etc). I found a few user agents for mobile browsers here to configure the addon and I was good to go.

Now I can simply tell FireFox to act like an iPhone and it will render those automatically redirecting sites without any trouble. Fantasitc.

I told a co-worker about this cool addon to FireFox and he responded “Oh yeah, Safari has a user agent switcher built in. Check it out.”

Safari user agent changer

He’s absolutely right.  Looks like Safari includes the ability to render pages as an iPhone if you want. Pretty cool, although I still use the FireFox addon to spoof Blackberries, Treos, and any other mobile browser I can find. Here are the links you’ll need to make this happen:

FireFox user agent switcher addon
Resource for user agents (not just mobile)

Hope you found this useful.

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