If you’ve ever waited for a webpage to update with vital information you need, you know it can be a real chore to keep tabs on it. Perhaps you refresh the page every so often. Maybe you even go so far as to install an auto-refresher. But what if you could use a tool that would let you know when the webpage updates instead?
This is the goal of VisualPing, developed both as a website and a Chrome extension. If you want to monitor a website, but don’t want to sit around watching it all day, you can give the website to VisualPing. It’ll then keep track of the website and the changes that take place on it. Once it detects a change, it alerts you so you can check if the information you need has been posted.
There are some differences between the web version and the Chrome extension. The Chrome extension can check websites every minute (or even every second!), but due to it being an extension of Chrome, you have to have Chrome itself open to get the notifications. If you close Chrome or turn off your computer, you won’t be notified of any changes.
The website version, however, can check once an hour minimum, but everything is taken care of on VisualPing’s server. This means you can go about your day, and VisualPing will email you when the website changes. Unfortunately, you need to register an account with them to use this service, and VisualPing limits the amount of checks you can do per month.
How It Works
Let’s say you want to monitor the above website. It’s the page for the much sought-after (but fictional!) painting software Paint Studio Plus. The company has announced they’re going to release a limited beta to the first one-hundred people who sign up. Unfortunately, there’s no mention on the website as to when the signups open up. So, let’s use VisualPing to do the hard work.
The VisualPing Server Method
You can set up email alerts by heading to the VisualPing website and entering the Paint Studio Plus address into the bar. Pressing “Go!” will generate a preview, like the following.
The preview is where you tell VisualPing what part of the website you want to track. Since you want it to to track the blog posts, set its focus by dragging the box around the area where the posts are. Then, below the preview, tell VisualPing to check every hour to detect any change.
After telling VisualPing what email you want the notification to be sent to, click the “Start Free Monitoring” button. If this is the first time you’re monitoring with VisualPing, you’ll have to set up an account before the tracking begins. Once done, you’re free to go about your day.
The VisualPing Extension Method
First, install the extension from the Chrome store. After it’s installed, open the tab containing the webpage you want to monitor, then click on the extension’s button that appears on your browser’s bar. When the VisualPing window opens, note the tab you’re currently in! If you’re in “Server,” you’re using offline email notifications as described above. If you want live updates from your browser, swap to the Browser tab.
Mark the area you want to monitor using the preview.
If you want, you can pick a website element to monitor for changes. This will ensure VisualPing will notify you when a specified element changes, but it may be a little confusing if you’re unsure of what elements are!
Then set the interval: in this case set it to 1 minute. This is the benefit of the Chrome extension; while using the server it’s limited to a minimum of only every hour, you can set the browser version to check in minutes or even seconds. Once done, hit “Start Monitoring” to begin.
During the day the beta for Paint Studio Plus goes live. What kind of results do you see when VisualPing gets back to you about the change?
When the website changes and you’re using the web version of VisualPing, an email lands in your inbox. It looks like the following.
The snapshots it mentions in the email are within the email’s attachments. When you look at them, you will see the following,
Without even opening the attachments, you can clearly see that the webpage has changed from the announcement to the release. Now you can head to the website and sign up before those spaces run out!
If you’re using the browser version, you’ll see and hear a notification pop up that looks like the following.
You can either click the notification body to go to the website or click “View Changes.” If you do the latter, a new window appears that shows how the website looked last check and how it looks now.
This is a little busy, isn’t it? The green overlay is what the website used to look like, while the regular colours (in this case, grey) is what it looks like now. If you want to see what it looks like now, all you need to do is click the “Current” button at the top.
That’s better! Now you can read the website and confirm that the beta was released. Click “Go to site” at the top to get your key.
When it comes to monitoring a website, from product releases to ticket details, doing it manually can be arduous. With a little help from VisualPing, however, you can get on with your day without worrying about checking websites all the time.
Have you ever sat around waiting for some news to break on a website before? Did it pay off for you? Let us know below.