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Why You Should Cross-Browser Test Websites

  •  10-24-2012

If you’re new to web programming, you may assume that your work ends with producing a perfectly working application. You test your website, debug the JavaScript, put it through a stress test and make sure that all is working well. However, many people do not take the effort of ensuring that their site renders and operates correctly in multiple browsers. The likelihood of your web application behaving differently depending on the browser increases dramatically with the complexity of the application. And I’m not just talking about visual design – though if your website doesn’t render properly and is broken, it creates a very bad impression on the user. Different browsers can also cause problems with JavaScript, throw errors, and make several page elements inaccessible.

So you’re convinced. You decide to test your application on a few extra browsers. Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, and Firefox. To your dismay, you find that your website doesn’t display properly in Internet Explorer. Some tables are not aligned and a few of your menus don’t work in Chrome. You realize that you have to redesign your entire workflow and correct significant bugs right from the ground up to ensure that you have cross browser compatibility. You are in danger of missing your project deadlines, overshooting your budget, and your code is now messy and susceptible to further errors as well. If only you had incorporated cross browser testing right from the start, you wouldn’t face any of these problems.

It may seem as if there are only a handful of major browsers on the market. And indeed, if you want to only cater to “most” of the population, you can get away with testing on 3 to 4 web browsers alone. However, keep in mind that there are certain geographical locations where a particular browser is used almost exclusively even though its share in the world market may be low. If you want to reach people in these areas, you have to ensure that you test your web application thoroughly with even those browsers that have a miniscule market share. We are after all talking about the World Wide Web where even 2% can translate into millions of users.

And don’t forget that you also have to test with many versions. If you look at Internet Explorer, a significant number of people are stuck on older platforms. In some cases this might be linked to the operating system which doesn’t support the upgraded browser. As you can see, cross browser testing of your application is of critical importance from the ground up. Not just as a mere afterthought. But don’t worry! There are several tools that can help you with this and which you can use to automate the process as much as possible.

Photo by Jean-Etlenne Minh-Duy

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