I can’t count how many times I’ve encountered an issue within a website where I’ve had to contact customer support for help. The first question they always ask is “Have you tried it another browser?” Like Homer Simpson in a moment of frustration – palm to the face and a quick “D’oh!” – I realize, no, I haven’t tried it in another browser.
It’s almost always embarrassing, but I know I’m not the only one who has encountered this scenario more than once. In all honesty, when you think about it, it’s actually the company’s error. What they should have done – and what would prevent other users from contacting customer support – is performed cross-browser testing before the release of their website.
What is cross-browser testing?
In simple terms, cross-browser testing is exactly as it sounds – testing a website or application across multiple browsers like Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer (IE) and Safari. When performing a cross-browser test, you want to check that functionality and style is the same on different browsers. For instance, do hyperlinks work in Firefox as they do in Chrome? Is the logo placed in the same spot in different browsers, or does it fall on the top right of the landing page in Chrome and directly in the middle in IE? There are many aspects to consider when cross-browser testing and it’s up to you to decide what’s okay and what’s not.
Why is it a must for front-end development?
We all have our main go-to browser. For me, it’s Chrome; however, not everyone uses the same browser or current version. There are still those out there using IE 6 – hard to believe I know. Shockingly, it’s not just individuals either. Even small and medium-sized businesses (60 percent) struggle with keeping up-to-date on current versions of IE.
Though it’s easy to forget, as we generally focus on what we do ourselves and not what others do, it’s important to keep this point in mind if you’re a front-end developer.
Users hold on to certain expectations when using your product or software application. They expect a consistent experience across multiple browsers, operating systems, versions and even devices. That’s no easy feat. No longer can you offer limited options to your users. To ensure these goals are met, cross-browser testing is a must.
Where to start?
A sure-fire place to start is with analytics. After all, when is data not useful? Since cross-browser testing can be tedious and laboring, you want to first decide where to focus most of your support. Use traffic data to determine which exact browsers those visiting your website actually use. Perhaps you’ll find that the majority of your users accesses your website or application through Chrome, Safari and Firefox, but not necessarily IE. Save on resources and time by ensuring a consistent experience on those browsers specifically. This way, when changes are made, they benefit the mass.
Once it is concluded which browsers to test, it’s up to you to decide whether or not it’s worth adopting tools to help you perform cross-browser tests. Again, there are many things to consider such as the associated costs with tools; however, a cross-browser testing tool could potentially save you down the line with regards to time, staff and creating a positive user experience.
Creating a reliable website or application that your users can trust ultimately means long-lasting customers for your company. Since browsers are continually updating and new versions are released as quickly as it takes bread to toast – okay, that’s an exaggeration, but you get the point – it’s crucial to stay on top of the functionality and style of your website or application. Maintain a consistent user experience and keep your customers coming back by performing cross-browser tests today.