Cross-browser compatibility testing is the most important testing for someone whose business is completely dependent on a website. Take for example an online service provider company. It may have gone through rough testing phases but is there a point in exhausting all your energy when the end-user is not able to communicate with the website properly?
Cross-browser compatibility testing is extremely important for a successful running website where you have one less thing to worry about. Since cross-browser compatibility testing is so important, it should be done with caution and care.
Similar to any other testing paradigm, developing the software with due consideration to the feedback from testing will always prove to be fruitful in the end. Hence, we have crafted this post in the same direction to provide you with tips on cross-browser compatibility testing. Working your way by keeping these tips in mind will help you design a website that is partially compatible even before testing.
Perform Code Validation
Code validation is a process of determining whether the code written by us is in accordance with the W3C standards or not. This is extremely important as a website developer. Remember how Internet Explorer sank just because they were not following the guidelines?
Having a validated and well-formatted website will not only make it browser compatible but bring a lot more freebies along with it. Some of them are like improved search engine optimization for better traffic on the website, easy maintenance etc.
To make the website cross-browser compatible, you can check your code using validator tools that can be found on the internet. The text editors also have such functionalities that can highlight the code not compatible with the standards. One such editor that I encountered was Adobe Dreamweaver and it helped me learn best practices in web development too.
Build Browser Matrix
A browser matrix is a process of listing down the browsers and their versions for which you are developing the website. It is nearly impossible to satisfy every browser and every version of them even if they are in use.
A simple reason for this is that browsers reject and accept various CSS and JS properties over time with their new versions. Although this process is gradual in nature, it does happen regularly. For this, you need to decide which browsers are you targeting and the range of their versions.
The best way to finalize a browser matrix is to think about your target audience. If you have a confined audience such as a particular bank whose employees use Firefox 78, then develop accordingly. The general audience gets their browsers updated regularly in the background and hence your browser matrix should also be updated in such cases.
A browser matrix will help you make a plan about what components to use in your website. This will help you in the end since you will dodge common mistakes of using one deprecated feature of Chrome 70 and one new feature of Chrome 83 etc.
You can also take help from online cloud-based cross browser compatibility testing tools such as Testsigma that keeps their browser configurations updated as they are launched. This will be further discussed later in detail.
Always Verify Feature Support
Now that we have enlightened ourselves with the validator and building a browser matrix, we need to take care of the components we use on our website. As a developer, we may know a lot of things in development but what we may not know is that the feature is now deprecated or is about to.
Our habit and practice in the past give birth to our ignorance and we never try to check whether the feature is still in use or not. The result is mind-boggling and leaves us wondering for hours why the feature is not working on the web page.
As a web developer, to build a cross-browser compatible website, you should always check the features on each of the browsers you are targeting. For example, CSS Subgrids is supported in Firefox but is not supported in Chrome. There are tons of such features that can hinder your user experience and it is always better to be prepared than to repeat everything again.
Skip Unnecessary Components
A lot of times, developers increase complexities of their website without any end-goal. A good example of the same is designing a lot of functionalities together creating congestion on the landing page. These are unnecessary components in terms of landing page and an enemy of cross-browser compatibility scenarios.
The problem is simple in such cases. The more the components on a page, the more issues they will create and the more time they would need fixing.
Since components will live in a synchronised environment, a small misalignment of a single element could create chaos on the landing page. Now you are required to adjust all the elements or maybe while adjusting some more elements gets misaligned and the process repeats. Hence, always code only the necessary components to reduce cross-browser compatibility issues.
Choose The Right Way To Test
The step of choosing the correct way is always a tricky business. A wrong judgement on this part can lead to wastage of time and efforts. Take for example you are developing a ticket reservation website for citizens of your country. Now you want to test it across browsers to satisfy every user’s requirement.
Can you take time and guess the correct way to go? Since the browser matrix is huge and the audience is very wide, the best way is to choose an online cross-browser testing tool.
An online cross-browser testing tool is like Amazon. In Amazon, you can just order the items sitting at your home. You do not need to go to the shop manually and purchase from the shop. Similarly, online cross-browser tools provide you with the platform which is already set up and connected with the physical infrastructure.
You do not need to worry about setting up the infrastructure manually. Now you just type the URL, hit enter and the website is launched within seconds. One such tool is Testsigma that has 2000+ browsers and a lot of features to smoothen your testing. There are integrations available which are regularly updated and a matrix of powerful CPUs that can run your website within seconds.
Another way to go is by developing a device lab (which is extremely expensive) or taking the device lab service on rent. In terms of device labs and online tool, I personally believe online tools are more robust, faster and are lag-free. Although it ultimately boils down to the developers and testers’ preference and personal choice.
Encapsulate Code In Framework
A good way to start the development of the website is to select a good framework and build your website in it. Frameworks bring a lot of advantages with them and most of them are free to use. A framework is already optimized for cross-browser issues and will automatically create responsive elements without any hardcode from the developer’s side.
Frameworks are developed to let the developer worry just about the functionalities and not thinking much about the cross-browser compatibility issues that would arise in other browsers.
A good example of a framework is Bootstrap. Bootstrap provides in-built functions that are responsive in nature. You just have to inherit the class and the element would automatically be rescaled on smaller devices. As an additional point, frameworks also help you in SEO optimizations but those are big frameworks such as Django.
Test Develop Test
This is the last step in our development process and our struggles to make a cross-browser compatible website. A lot of the time developers and the teams think that once they are completely satisfied and have developed the functionalities, only then you should test. This is the wrong approach as the issues are piled up when we delay them for later stages. The result is delayed-release and more efforts for improvements.
Similar to unit testing, if the website is tested regularly at frequent intervals, it will be very easy for the developers to get faster feedback from the user. With such feedback, there are lesser issues and lesser work to be done on the elements.
You can save a lot of time and effort with such an approach and plan your future development processes easily. Consider a situation where you are using some CSS property that has been deprecated. It would be better to get the notification earlier into the process rather than changing the complete website. Therefore, test-build-test and keep iterating your plans as the development process moves on.
Any More Tips?
Cross-browser testing is a necessary job when it comes to website development. At first, it may seem that this is an end process i.e. you develop the website first and then move ahead with testing. It might look logical but creates a huge pile of issues.
A website is not like the mark sheets that you can check even if piled up. You might notice that some element does not work which has been used exhaustively while development. This comes under bad planning in design and development. We can dodge such scenarios by learning through our experience and keep the above tips in mind.
The tips provided in this post have proved effective with the test of time and it is recommended to follow these. But, these are not the only ones and personal experiences will give birth to a few more that can help other fellow developers/testers.
Hence, we welcome you to comment on your own experiences and any tips you would want to share with us. We would be more than happy to incorporate those in our post.