What is Cross-Browser Testing, and Why is it Important?

By

Tessa McDaniel

,

Content Specialist

2022-03-24

Cross-browser testing is an important part of testing a website; after all, you want to ensure that your site is accessible to everyone, no matter what browser, OS, or device combination they’re coming from. But, it also goes a lot deeper than that, so let’s do a deep dive into cross-browser testing.

What is Cross-Browser Testing?

We’ll start out simple with the nuts and bolts: cross-browser testing is non-functional testing that ensures that every device, browser, and OS can navigate your website with ease. Another part that is not normally thought of is that cross-browser testing tests accessibility. Some people have screen readers, and if a site is not accessible, then they won't be able to navigate it. Not only does this mean that business can be lost, but choosing not to test for accessibility can be a costly mistake. A blind man won a case where he sued Domino’s Pizza because his screen reader couldn’t read the website to him.

Why Does It Matter?

So, we've established that all visitors need to be able to see and use your content easily. If this isn’t the case, you could potentially lose business. Most cross-browser difficulties stem from not putting together a mobile version of a site. When a mobile user has trouble viewing something on their mobile device or tablet, chances are very good that they won’t return for more information or purchases.  Plus, Google operates on mobile-first indexing, meaning that the Googlebot crawls pages with their smartphone agent. If a site isn't easily navigated by the Googlebot, that can affect SEO and ranking.

The best way to avoid any lost sales is by ensuring that your web pages load properly in every browser, and that happens through cross-browser compatibility testing. Don’t just test on one browser—test across them all!

What is Analyzed in a Browser Test?

A test specification document outlines the essentials of a feature set, what browser combinations to test on, and how to achieve a certain level of cross-browser compatibility. You can categorize features that need testing into base functionality, design, accessibility, and responsiveness. Base functionality ensures that basic functionalities work on many different browsers/devices/OSes. These functionalities include: dialog boxes and menus that need to work as expected, form fields that have to accept input after validation, first-party cookies that need to be handled correctly, and mobile browsers that have to handle touch input and have the right kind of layout compared to the desktop browser. 

Design focuses on the layout, fonts, images, etc, accessibility, as mentioned above, is if a site can be used by tools like screen readers, and responsiveness checks if the design is smooth and adapts to different screen sizes. 

How to Decide Which Browsers to Test

There are two criteria to consider when deciding which browsers/devices/OSes to test (after all, testing every single combination is a smidge impractical): popularity and analysis. Popularity is pretty straightforward: pick the popular browsers that are used plus the top devices and OSes. The analysis part is based on your website traffic. Through a tool like Google Analytics, you can see the top browsers, devices, and OSes that visit your site and adjust your testing accordingly. 

How is Cross-Browser Testing Executed?

There are a few steps when starting cross-browser testing, starting off with baseline establishment. Usually, whichever browser you use to build your website, say, Google Chrome, is going to be your baseline that you test everything against. Then you can use the popularity and analysis criteria to create a list of browsers/devices/OSes (wow there really needs to be an acronym for that) to test regularly. Then, of course, decide how you're going to test them. Testing multiple browsers manually would take ages, and automated testing can run the tests without constant supervision, but the tests take a while to author and maintain, plus a virtual machine would require time to set up and install the browsers.

However, Virtuoso takes all of the testing pains away! You can author your tests in plain English, which cuts down test authoring time drastically. Then, using the execution planner, you can schedule your tests to run as often as you want and save time by having the tests run in parallel. Even better, Virtuoso is cloud-based, so there's no setup or installation required, and you can run tests across as many browser versions, operating systems, and real devices as you want. Plus, you can get reports on the different browsers all throughout the testing process. Want to try out cross-browser testing on Virtuoso? Book a demo with us, and we'll show you how it can be done with your website!

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