The browser market today is more saturated than ever before. Compared to just a few years ago when Internet Explorer was the dominant force, browsers such as Chrome and Safari have established their own solid market share. The recent proliferation of mobile devices has only accelerated this trend. Many web designers now have dedicated “mobile only” versions of their websites. Some even go the extra mile and create an additional version specifically for tablets. In many ways the web is fragmented. Though it may seem as if a webpage behaves uniformly across browsers, this is far from true. Every browser has its own quirks and serious developers have to ensure that their websites work properly on all of them.
It’s not enough to merely cater to the major players who have a large market share. Even a relatively minor browser like Opera which has a tiny presence worldwide, has achieved significant adoption in many Eastern European countries such as Ukraine where it commands a 43% market share. If your application caters to these countries, you simply cannot afford to ignore the way your webpage renders in these browsers. Cross browser testing of your website is not just another tick off a checklist – it is an essential component of your testing environment.
Top Browser Version per Country (Statcounter)
Standalone vs Online Services
Cross browser testing tools fall into two broad categories – those where you can test webpages over the Internet, and applications that you install on your computer. Both have their uses. But if you’re a professional web designer, a standalone tool is indispensable.
Online services are great for quick and ad hoc testing. Simply input the URL of your website and you can get an idea of how it renders across a variety of browsers. But there are several disadvantages as well. To start off with, you already need a live version of your website before you can test it. So if you don’t want your potential customers to see a broken page, you have to upload your projects to temporary URLs first.
In addition, online testing tools are slow. Depending on the service you use, it can be several minutes before you receive your results. This is due to the inherent lag of Internet services. As mentioned before, if you’re a professional web developer this can get frustrating very quickly.
A standalone cross browser testing tool however mitigates all these problems. You can configure it so that it automatically executes testing whenever you build your project. It doesn’t require your site to be live – it can work directly with HTML webpages stored on your local network. This means it is fast and can also check against a greater variety of web browsers. You can receive screenshots and detailed information instantly without having to wait for a long time.
It also isolates you against failures in Internet connectivity at your end. With a stand-alone testing tool, you can be sure that your website works properly in all browsers before it is ready to go live.
This is not to say that online testing tools are not useful. They are. But they simply cannot match the flexibility and configuration options of a dedicated testing application running locally on your machine.
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