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Why cross-browser testing brings more traffic to your site

  •  2-9-2012
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I often get asked why one should bother cross-browser testing in the first place. If the page works with the current versions of major browsers, that will do, right? However, it is a far cry from that.

Folks don’t care about browsers

Do you care which software version your microwave uses? I’m pretty sure you don’t. And I’m pretty sure you want this microwave to heat all your food regardless of how old it is and if the software is still up-to-date. Many users feel the same way with their browsers.

People leave when it doesn’t work

Unless your content is very good and absolutely unique, the user won’t bother to open any different browser simply to view your page.  Worse, you won’t even notice because they ‘ll just assume that your website doesn’t work at all. And off runs the traffic.

There are many different browsers out there

Even with all these automatic update features (Chrome, Firefox) there are still many people using dated browsers. Maybe it’s because the updates fail for some reasons, or the operating system won’t allow updates (Internet Explorer and Windows XP).  Maybe they simply couldn’t care any less. Let me show you some browser statistics of the last 3 months:

 

Source:  http://gs.statcounter.com

As you see there are a lot of people who use the old Internet Explorer 8 even long after Internet Explorer 9 had been released.

Cross-browser compatibility is a low hanging fruit

As a quick example, just imagine your site is tested in all major browsers (Firefox 9, Internet Explorer 9, Chrome and Safari). You are still losing about 40% of all possible visitors, not because your content is bad but simply because they cannot view your site correctly. Moreover, nobody of these 40% will recommend your site on social networks or to colleagues and friends.

But cross-browser compatibility is easy to achieve. Mostly it’s just some CSS or JavaScript that break  the page in older browsers. One day of cross-browser testing may very well give you 25% more traffic. That’s time and money well spent!

Let the browser work in your favor

Many browsers even share the same rendering engine. If, for example, your website does run in Chrome chances are good that it’ll also run (maybe with minor improvements) in any other Webkit-powered browser (e.g. Safari).

Don’t limit your site to desktop browsers

The bad news: many people use a mobile device to access the web. Do you know what your website looks like on the iPhone or a tablet? There are hundreds of different phones, tablets, screen sizes and software versions. Does your site work and look reasonably good in them? Let’s see which different mobile browsers are popular these days:

 

Source:  http://gs.statcounter.com

Your users are no youngsters?

If you think that because you aren’t targeting the typical young male geek with the brand new device then you don’t need to test your website on mobile devices at all, you are plain wrong. Smartphones are literally everywhere these days (even my mother uses one). Look at the statistics above: There’s an iPod Touch with nearly 6%. That’s not even a phone! Some people surf the web with their music-player. Sick!

What you really need to test

In summary, you need to test your website with multiple versions of all major browsers.

  • ·         Internet Explorer 7, 8, 9
  • ·         Firefox 9, 8, 3.6
  • ·         Chrome
  • ·         Safari 5.1, 5.0

Additionally, you need many mobile devices and browsers. A quick list to start with:

  • ·         Opera mobile
  • ·         Android (2.2 and 2.3)
  • ·         iPhone, iPhone 3, iPhone 4
  • ·         iPad, iPad2

I recommend this as the minimum browsers and devices you should support. Of course you can alter the list to fit your target market. If you target cooperate business users you would add Internet Explorer 6, if you sell mobile games maybe Nokia would be a great idea, and so on.

So how do you get there?

From a practical viewpoint it’s really hard to get the infrastructure to test all these browsers. IMHO the various services that take screenshots of your page in different browsers aren’t a good way to test any more. How would you test your pretty JavaScript UI?

You could install many browsers on your system, but that doesn’t hold true for various versions of Internet Explorer (ok, it’s possible, but a real pain in the ass). Then again you could use the VirtualPc Images Microsoft provides for this very reason (http://www.microsoft.com/download/en/details.aspx?id=11575). All you need is lots of time, disk space and an exceedingly fast workstation.

And if you don’t want to buy many mobile devices … Well, tough luck testing them.

BrowseEmAll provides the solution to this problem

We found a way to create a cross-browser testing tool that helps minimizing the cross-browser and cross-device pain. With BrowseEmAll you can test 15 desktop and 7 mobile browsers at blazing speed. You don’t need to search, install and maintain all of them.

There is a free 30-days trial available on BrowseEmAll.com. We can help you save some hours of your precious time and possibly money.

What are your strategies?

How do you ensure cross-browser and cross-device compatibility on your website? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

Photo by epSos.de

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