Understanding the Importance of Cross-Browser Testing

Introduction

Too often, software developers neglect cross-browser compatibility testing. It happens because developers put in a lot of effort into building an application that seems perfect to them, but cross-browser testing is essential if they want it to look the same on different machines.

What Is Cross-Browser Testing?

It is nothing fancy. It’s a way to know whether your users will experience your website the way you built it and intended it to be. Cross-browser compatibility testing involves testing the websites across different browsers, OS, devices, and so on. It is important to know that not all browsers behave the same. They render HTML, CSS, and JavaScript uniquely on each platform and browser version. It may sound simple to hear, but it is a daunting task for the developers to test the huge range of combinations. The best way to deal with it is to have your device lab or depend on a third-party cloud-based cross-browser compatibility testing tool, because affording in-house infrastructure is not feasible for every organization. Developers can choose from a variety of free cross-browser testing tools that provide access to thousands of devices.

Providing consistency in website behavior and experience across all browsers, devices, and operating systems are some of the main functions of cross-browser testing.

Why Is Cross-Browser Testing Important?

Your website is the face of your business in the digital world. It is essential to ensure that your website functions properly, providing the best user experience and the information your customers need. Cross-browser compatibility testing doesn’t only mean verifying the compatibility of a website across browsers or its versions, but also means validating if your website is consistently performing on different devices and operating systems (and versions).

Every browser interprets the website code differently, so the developers should ensure that browsers read the code right to provide the best user experience on all platforms. The popularity of browsers varies from region to region. Overall, Chrome tops 60% of the browser market. Sometimes businesses only test for Chrome, but this means ignoring the remaining 40% of their potential users. Businesses should always test on a range of different browsers and not just Chrome. Cross-browser compatibility testing bridges the gap of test fragmentation and helps you ensure you aren’t ignoring the other chunk of your user base. Efficient cross-browser testing can prove to be a game-changer for organizations.

How to Perform Cross-Browser Testing

You probably understand the concept of cross-browser testing by now, but how exactly should you go about this?

  • You can start by creating a cross-browser compatibility testing checklist that comprises a list of functions and components necessary to run the website on each browser. The checklist should contain all the functions that you expect your website to perform on the browsers.
  • When everything is in place, test the website compatibility by running it on your browser and comparing the results with the set standards. You can start this by running your website and validating the defined functions on your primary browser first.
  • A detailed test plan would help prioritize and select the browser-OS combinations to test based on your website’s traffic analysis and the data about the browsers on which your users most commonly visit your website.
  • Choose between automation or manual testing or both. Manual testing needs more time and effort. In modern testing, manual testers usually perform exploratory testing where human insight is valued more in figuring out the UX pain points of the user while using the website. Manual testers execute test scenarios one after another, whereas automated cross-browser testing automates interactions via code on different browsers any number of times.
  • You would also need a secure infrastructural backbone and decide on several devices to test. You can either choose simulators to test the web application on different browsers or choose real computer systems, which might not be scalable for some businesses because of the high investment involved. However, test results on simulators are unreliable, so managing a real-device lab would provide a higher quality test outcome. It is also recommended to go for a cloud-based testing platform where you can run your tests remotely on several secure devices and browsers at a lower cost as compared to setting up and maintaining an in-house browser lab.
  • You can use cross-browser compatibility testing tools that make it easy to manage the above tasks. There are many free cross-browser testing tools available online that help you test your website on numerous browsers. Although they save time and effort, we still can’t ignore the fact that the human prowess to identify flaws can only be captured by a human mind. Also, working on tools promotes a cross-functional working environment and lets teams on identifying and fixing collaborate errors.

All the actions above jointly ensure productive cross-browser testing to validate your website’s health and efficiency on each browser as expected.

How to Choose Which Browsers to Test

It depends on your target audience and their browser preferences, as well as overall browser popularity, regional presence in your target location, and so on. It does not mean that you ignore other browsers, but make a mindful analysis of what is required and what is not. Whatever method you adopt to perform cross-browser compatibility testing, you should aim to ensure that your web app or website operates consistently across all possible browser/OS/device combinations. But with so many options available, cross-browser testing becomes challenging for the developers to select particular browsers to test. Let’s break it down further to understand on what basis we can take this decision:

The popularity of browsers: There are a good number of widely popular browsers. For the purposes of this article, let us say Chrome and Firefox are the top two most popular browsers in the market. To capture the target market share, testing in the most popular browsers is essential.

Website traffic analysis: Based on the user traffic usually tracked by analytics tools like Google Analytics, Adobe Analytics, SEMRush, and so on, you can track which browser, device, and operating system your users are actually using to visit your website. Based on this information, the marketing and business teams decide on the browsers they would need to select to test and meet the organizational goals.

When Do We Perform Cross-Browser Testing?

When to perform cross-browser testing depends on your workflow and your role in the process.

QA and development teams test functionalities whenever they continuously create any new feature in the CI pipelines. If you are a developer, you will need cross-browser testing to test new website features and ensure they are compatible across browsers before moving to production. If you are on the QA team, you will perform cross-browser testing at the pre-release release cycle so that no browser compatibility issues arise in the updated website version. Correcting any abnormalities before the website goes live to avoid escalations from end users and face the consequences of a bad user experience is of utmost importance.

Developers and the QA team involve themselves in testing the web application because they know the ins and outs of the code, and they can help identify and fix issues faster. They also collaborate with other teams, like marketing and business teams, ensuring they can match the quality standards they want to offer to their customers to maintain a trustworthy business image. Testing promotes a productive and efficient work environment, creating a collaborative culture within the organization among different teams.

Who Can Perform Cross-Browser Testing?

Anyone who knows how to develop for the open web or a web designer can perform cross-browser testing. The best thing is you need not have coding expertise.

Marketers and web designers can use tools that provide an interactive experience wherein any team member can test the website’s responsiveness and performance over different browsers.

Cross-browser testing is commonly performed by quality analysts, however. They test websites based on different test scenarios on various browsers, ensuring that the code matches the pre-defined cross-browser compatibility standards. The front-end design and development teams also religiously execute cross-browser tests to find out how the website front end is behaving on different devices and interfaces.

Conclusion

Now that we have an idea of ​​how crucial cross-browser testing is from the QA perspective and for the development of modern web apps. It helps us understand how we need to ensure that the components of the website are working efficiently on various browsers, operating systems, and computer systems.

There would be no need for cross-browser compatibility testing if each browser was built per open web standards, but to be the best in the market, these things vary and make businesses dependent on cross-browser testing. It has become an essential part of the QA process, and it helps detect and solve issues before any user has a chance to complain about a broken website. The ultimate purpose of all this effort is to provide an unbeatable user experience on all platforms so that you can hold your user base for the long term.

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