The Importance of Cross Browser Testing

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Not all web browsers are created equal. Some are exclusively compatible with certain operating systems, while some boast features they claim others lack, like privacy mode and auto-updating. Some browsers even restrict certain features to a specific operating system. For instance, Safari’s text-to-speech feature works exclusively with Mac operating systems. There are web browsers that were once praised as the frontier leaders in web exploration and the pioneers of internet navigation that are now nearly extinct — so old and under-used that younger generations of web users often have never even heard of them. With so many variables on the surface, there are even more differences underneath that impact the way websites and web applications display and behave across difference browsers. For this reason, when a web application is in the process of being completed, it is good practice to conduct Cross Browser Testing.

Why Should You Conduct Cross Browser Testing?

A web application that behaves precisely as desired in one web browser might have some issues when run in another web browser – issues that could keep the vital functions of the application from working all together. There are many client components that can yield different results based on the web browser they are run in, such as Applets, JavaScript, Flash, AJAX requests, and the list goes on. For anyone who desires to have a professional looking website or application, Cross Browser Testing is essential. Not only are web browsers on personal computers (whether desktop or laptop) a concern here, but with the ever progressing advancement of tablets and phones with their web access capabilities, Cross Browser Testing of web applications must extend to mobile web browsers as well.

How Do You Conduct Cross Browser Testing?

Cross Browser Testing can be done in various ways. Perhaps the most common way to get started is to develop a checklist of the gamut of functions that the particular website or application must perform. Then sit down at a computer and methodically open up the site in multiple browsers to verify against a set of desired outcomes from the checklist. There are also tools such as BrowserStack, Browsera, and sauceLABS that are available to aid in Cross Browser Testing and make it easier than managing a checklist. These tools can check a given website or application against a long list of browsers simultaneously by way of repeated iterations of tasks (like clicking a particular link) and organize the results into a neat list. However, having a program do this has its pros and cons. For one, a program can behave more consistently across browsers, treating them all methodically in the exact same way. One downside, however, is that a program only does as much as it was built to do. A human can catch flaws that a program cannot, such as style inconsistencies across web browsers for a given website or application. At Segue Technologies we find the best quality is achieved by using a combination of tools and people.

There is a great deal of variation between browsers and even between different versions of the same browser. These variations make it essential to perform Cross Browser Testing to ensure that each browser renders pages as designed. Make sure you test against the browsers with the most market share, but also be mindful of the browser trends among your target audience. Browser versions can also play a role in design, as older browser versions tend not to support some of the newer specifications. Performing Cross Browser Testing, manually or with the aid of a tool, will ensure your app operates consistently across multiple browsers, operating system and devices.

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