Cross browser testing

As a web designer or developer, it’s important that your site is always displayed with the same level of quality on all browsers and devices. In order to turn this requirement into a reality, it’s essential to ensure that integrated content–especially stylesheets (e.g. CSS) and script codes (e.g. JavaScript)–is cross browser compatible. Simply put: all elements (extensions, plugins, etc.) need to be programmed in such a way that allows them to display identical results, no matter the browser in use.

Maintain a solid overview with cross browser testing

Opting not to run any cross browser tests may mean that your website has only been optimized for a few browsers, which could lead to display errors occurring. Compatibility problems are especially known to arise when browsers interpret standardized codes individually. Web designers that focus too much on one certain browser may soon realize that they’ve ignored other popular web browsers, potentially neglecting scores of users in the process. This is why it’s important to make sure that you don’t just focus your development efforts on your preferred browser. Instead, always turn your attention towards all the browsers that your potential visitors are using. If content isn’t correctly displayed in your user’s browser, all of your hard work and time will go to waste.

Optimizing your website for as many browsers as possible plays a significant role in responsive design. This also includes taking the most common browsers for mobile operating systems, like Android, into account. Cross browser optimization is a time-consuming and detailed task. This is due to the fact that the functionality of various web elements can only be ensured by checking their performance on all conventional browsers. Typical problems involved in this process are:

  • Internet Explorer still has older versions in circulation that are difficult to install. It’s possible to do this with virtual machines, but often it remains impossible to install the browser on your computer.
  • Safari, which can’t be tested for Windows or Linux users.
  • The number of outdated mobile browsers, which all have the same technical foundations, but deviate from one another in terms of details.  

There is a range of various cross browser testing tools that make up for the fact these different browser versions are difficult to access from one central computer. These internet services provide browser packages that include all the necessary hardware resources needed for test runs.

How cross browser testing tools work

Many services for testing the compatibility of different website elements simulate their display on both older and current versions of each respective browser. This is because many older versions are still used on office computers. Solution approaches, scope, and the price of the tools tend to vary quite significantly from one another.

Let’s illustrate some of these topics with an example: suppose you want to optimize just one intranet application for a smaller company. You can assume that the browser and browser version will only exhibit slight deviations to one another. This is where tools can help. By installing different versions of these browsers onto your computer, you can gain a better idea on how your product will look when accessed with different browsers. Finally, by using screenshot applications, you’re able to automatically obtain snapshots of how the website is displayed.

For those wanting to reach a more diverse group of users, the number of different browser types is simply too large to rely on your own test system. Add in the fact that multiple operating systems would be needed, and you end up with a task that is simply too complicated to manage on your own. This is where web tools based on screenshot programs can come in handy. These tools provide snapshots of how your websites are displayed in different browsers. Some tools allow you to choose which browsers you test your site with, while others are specified to one particular option. Most of the time, this method only allows you to see HTML and CSS errors. Web applications integrated into your site are often ignored during such audits. Cross browser testing tools solve this problem by granting you remote access to browsers that need to be tested for your site. This allows you to display your website into the desired browser without having to first install it.

The best tools for cross browser testing

Checking whether different elements from your web project work on all device types and browsers is more important today than ever before. This compatibility is rewarded by both users as well as search engines. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best tools for cross browser testing.

CrossBrowserTesting

The name says everything regarding this web service’s function. CrossBrowserTesting offers more than 900 different web browser varieties and more than 40 different operating systems for testing. In ‘live test’ mode, users are able to select different software/browser combinations and check for faulty AJAX, Flash, HTML, or JavaScript elements. Automatically produced screenshots allow you to easily compare whether the layout is presented in an appealing way on all browsers. Both finished websites as well as those that are still in development can be tested. What’s more, the tests take place on actual physical devices, as opposed to system emulators. Free for a week, CrossBrowserTesting users can then choose one of several packages after the trial period has expired. Depending on which option you book, you’ll receive a limited selection of minutes for automated live tests, simultaneously executed checks, as well as user numbers.

BrowserStack

The online tool, BrowserStack, lets you check your website’s functionality on over 700 browsers. This provider uses actual physical devices for most of its tests. For Android, emulators are used to run automated tests with the framework, Selenium. BrowserStack grants immediate access to all browsers and unlimited time for testing your desired set-ups. High performance script languages help support these efforts by locating and correcting errors in real time. BrowserCheck also lets you audit your website even if it’s still being developed. Screenshots for web design analysis have to be manually generated with this application. Resolutions ranging from 800 x 600 to 2048 x 1536 pixels can be defined. Once the trial version has expired, users can choose from three different monthly packages. Important note: the basic package doesn’t feature any automated tests.

Spoon Browser Sandbox

Spoon Browser Sandbox is another service that offers virtualized browsers; however, this tool can only run via your own PC. Browser Sandbox allows you to use different versions of conventional web browsers, like Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, or Safari without having to have them installed on your computer. Thanks to browser emulators, it doesn’t matter which operating system you use. This allows you to test browsers that are actually no longer compatible. The tool’s free version only permits you to run one single virtual browser, while the monthly subscription lets you simulate an unlimited number of browsers simultaneously. Additionally, subscribers have access to online sandbox tools that can help with site analysis (e.g. with screen shots or storable test logs).


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