What is cross-browser testing and how can you automate it?

People can access your website from any browser, so it’s critical to do cross-browser testing. Here’s an in-depth look at what it means and how to automate it.

People can access your website from any browser, so it’s critical to do cross-browser testing. Here’s an in-depth look at what it means and how to automate it.

November 4, 2021
Tamas Cser

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People can access your website from any browser, so it’s critical to do cross-browser testing. Here’s an in-depth look at what it means and how to automate it.
Cross-browser testing ensures that a site or web app gives the same user experience regardless of the browser used to access it. This means the site looks similar and behaves in the same manner. Browsers can have remarkable differences depending on whether they optimize performance, privacy, or compatibility. So, you need to test as many combinations as possible to make sure your site is compatible.

What is cross-browser testing?

A website is the sum of various components including content, images, CSS, and scripts. Each browser will have a different way to process all these. For instance, CSS can act entirely differently in Mozilla Firefox or in Google Chrome. That means the same element may render differently in each browser.

Cross-browser testing is a means to ensure these components function seamlessly across all targeted browser versions. The overarching goal is to detect bugs that might prevent a site from displaying or functioning properly across browsers. That might include ensuring HTML, JavaScript, plugins, and design elements all look and behave as intended on every individual browser type.

Why is cross-browser testing important?

All testing is about delivering the best experience possible to users. If you look at different browsers, they each have a unique technology working in the backend to render websites. Chrome dominates the market thanks to its ubiquity on Android and its popularity for desktop machines. But Safari, Edge, Firefox, and Chromium all take significant market share too.

Cross-browser testing accounts for the differences between all these browsers. It checks how a site’s code adapts to different browsers. Plus, it helps designers and developers identify bugs, which can be resolved as soon as they are identified.  

Typical issues include:

  • Different JavaScript implementation
  • Missing CSS resets
  • Font size and image orientation mismatch
  • No support for HTML5
  • Inconsistent page alignment
  • Layout incompatibility with browser
  • Mismatches in frameworks or library versions

With cross-browser testing, you can address these and other pitfalls before launching your site or web app officially.

What does cross-browser testing involve?

Modern browser testing needs more than visual verification. It also includes checking the unseen functionality and browser-related business logic surrounding the code. The engineer performing the testing has to check the following:

Verify the UI. Ensure that all aspects of the user interface closely align with the specifications and requirements. 

Validate the code. Ensure that the CSS and JavaScript validate completely across all of the target browsers. 

Test the operation. Verify that the site behaves consistently. This includes tabs, panels, links, popups, and navigation menus.  

Check performance. Keep an eye out for performance issues like elements loading slowly or unreliably.  

Test for responsiveness. Does the site behave correctly at different screen sizes? Here, you will need to check with the product team to understand things like how the menu should collapse, etc. 

On top of that, you also need to just check that the overall user experience feels the same across different browsers.

Is it necessary for every release?

It’s definitely recommended to conduct browser compatibility testing for every product release. Short release cycles and automatic updates have brought us to the point that no major web browser is static software. Nowadays, a new browser version is released every few weeks. The majority of users won’t even know their browser is getting an update. Browser updates bring more features, quirks, and opportunities for bugs. So it’s important to regularly perform cross-browser testing. It’s worth mentioning that browser vendors tend to seed their updates on varying schedules. If you’re targeting more than one browser, you need to keep these cycles in mind when updating your tests.

How do you automate cross-browser testing?

You always have two options with any testing: do it manually or rely on automated testing. Manual testing is in many ways easier, but it has massive issues with scaling, speed, and efficiency.

Thus, it’s best to automate your cross-browser testing. The traditional route was to create Selenium test scripts in one browser. Then test and update them for each other browser that needs to be supported. Once that is done, you can then set up Selenium to run through all the tests on each browser in turn. However, this is not a great approach. Especially when you consider the maintenance overhead it sets up. Check out our latest guide on cross browser testing tools too discover alternatives to Selenium.

How can Functionize AI-powered testing help?

Functionize helps you create automated tests using our Architect smart test recorder. By default, these tests will work on any browser. That’s because our intelligent test platform uses AI to understand the intent behind all your tests. In turn, that means it knows how they should run on each browser. The tests aren’t fazed by things like images moving a few pixels, or buttons rendering with a fractionally different margin. The AI even copes with responsive features, like menus that collapse when viewed at smartphone screen resolutions.

Even better, all the tests are cloud-based and are able to run at scale. Getting through the full matrix of browsers, devices, and screen resolutions can be done far faster by parallelizing the tests. Each test runs in a dedicated virtual machine for each target browser to ensure high-speed parallel execution. 

With Functionize, you can do your cross-browser testing every testing cycle, and you never need to worry about updating tests to cope with different browsers. So, if you want to alleviate cross-browser compatibility headaches, sign up for a demo today.