Cross-browser testing is the process of ensuring that a website or web application looks and functions consistently across all browsers. Different browsers can display websites with unexpected differences with the overall layout and design, so cross-browser testing is essential for quality assurance.

This type of testing can be done manually or with the aid of automated tools. Automating cross-browser testing with tools like UIlicious can help speed up your testing.

This article will discuss cross-browser testing, what it involves, the different ways to achieve it, and how to automate it.


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Why cross-browser testing is important

According to StatCounter, in 2021 there are two web browsers that dominate their market. Chrome is the leader with more than 64% of all browser usage, while Safari comes in second with 20%. Microsoft Edge comes third with a share of 4%, and Firefox is just behind at 3.9%. Safari, Microsoft Edge, and Internet Explorer, cannot be ignored as a number of Mac and Windows users keep navigating the web with their OS default browser.

For these reasons, cross-browser testing is crucial because it ensures that a website looks and functions consistently regardless of the browser used by your audience. While some slight differences in how a website displays are to be expected, cross-browser testing allows for these differences to be identified and adjusted. This prevents users from experiencing any significant issues.

If a website is not cross-browser tested, there may be display issues on some browsers causing frustration with users and reducing conversions.

Cross-browser testing is necessary because cross-browser incompatibilities are common; the same codebase might behave differently across web browsers.

Indeed, every browser displays websites differently because each one renders websites using their own layout engine and CSS. This can affect how a website looks, and what works on one browser may not work as intended on another.

For this reason, cross-browser compatibility issues are some of the most common problems found in cross-browser testing.

Cross-browser compatibility issues can include things like:

  • Incorrect formatting of data outputted from a website (for example, a date that should be written as "12/31" appearing as "31/12");
  • A JavaScript function that works in one browser but fails to work in another;
  • A CSS element that is visible in one browser but not on another;
  • Overall rendering of images and spacing may not display consistently across multiple browsers; and
  • Encoded text displaying within text titles.

Explain Cross-Browser Testing To Me Like I’m Five Years Old

Let's say you're building the website of a company called “Oishii Pizza”.

Oishii Pizza wants to increase its sales online, so they decide to cross-browser test their website before releasing it publicly.

The first thing that Oishii Pizza would do is check what browsers are the most widely used by the majority of their customer base. Checking Google's data on the average internet user reveals that most people use Chrome, followed by Firefox and Safari.

So Oishii Pizza cross-browser tests their website across Chrome, Firefox, and Safari to ensure that the site displays and works consistently across each web browser: That's the right thing to do (but we would recommend adding Edge and Internet Explorer to this strategy, just in case)!

Because…

If Oishii Pizza tested their website only in Chrome before releasing it publicly, then there's a chance that people using other browsers could see a broken website.

In fact, cross-browser testing with Safari would have revealed an issue with several images. Indeed, Apple’s web browser is not currently supporting the WebP format, which means that websites that use this image format may not display correctly on Safari.

This problem could prevent hundreds of users from visiting the website with Safari to order their delicious pizza. But, then, a fraction of the website visitors can get irritated and never come back regardless of how cheesy your pizzas are.

Oishii Pizza could quickly fix this issue before releasing its website to the public. And, both Safari and Chrome users would be able to order their pizza without a problem.

How to do cross-browser testing

Cross-browser testing can be done manually or with automated tools. Automated cross-browser testing involves tools that can help cross-check what a website looks like on different browsers. It is usually done with an automated cross-browser testing software like UIlicious .

How can cross-browser testing be done manually

Manual cross-browser testing is usually done by people who are checking their own website for cross-browser issues.

  • Pros: The advantage of testing your website on multiple browsers manually is that it’s usually free (unless you have to buy specific computers in order to test native browsers such as Safari on an Apple MacBook, iPad or iPhone).
  • Cons: Manual testing can take time depending on the number of pages a website contains, and it can often be challenging to spot the cross-browser differences. Sometimes not all of the browsers are installed or updated, especially if testing in certain browsers that are not native to the computer, which can result in not a true cross-browser test.

Many testers prefer to cross-browser test their website on all major browsers using testing tools like UIlicious. Let’s talk more about the benefits of using this tool.

How cross-browser testing works with automated testing tools

Cross-browser testing can be done using software like UIlicious. This automation testing software can run tests on all major browsers, including Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Microsoft Edge (Legacy and Chromium), and the infamous and outdated but widely used Internet Explorer 11.

There are a number of automated cross-browser testing tools on the market, but the most popular ones are: BrowserStack, CrossBrowserTesting, BlazeMeter, and UIlicious.

An automated testing tool like UIlicious helps cross-browser check your website on actual browsers, not emulators, which are only simulations of the target environment. UIlicious runs on real machines with real browsers giving more accurate results.

  • Pros: It's fast, accurate, and can be used to test on all popular web browsers simultaneously. Automated cross-browser testing can also be easily repeated, making it the ideal choice for regression testing.
  • Cons: It can be expensive, depending on the cross-browser testing tool you choose. Automated cross-browser testing tools can also be challenging to set up and use, meaning that not everyone can take advantage of them (in theory).

Is there an easier way to automate cross-browser testing?

But do not worry! You can use UIlicious for testing your website, even if you do not have any programming knowledge. With our paid plans - which are by the way, reasonable! - you will be able to create automated tests that run on multiple browsers in the cloud in a matter of minutes.

Extra Tips: How to avoid cross-browser compatibility issues

While cross-browser testing can identify cross-browser compatibility issues, these issues can sometimes be avoided from the start by using cross-browser compatible code. This can include preventing deprecated features of HTML and CSS, using cross-browser compatible JavaScript libraries, responsive design, and more.

There are a few other preventive measures that website developers and web admins can do to avoid cross-browser issues, such as:

  • Ensuring that cross-browser differences are checked for in advance;
  • Making sure there is a good understanding of the cross-browser compatibility issues likely to occur during development;
  • Testing websites on actual browsers rather than emulators.

Final thoughts

As we have seen in this article, cross-browser testing is the process of testing a website or web application on multiple browsers. This is critical in guaranteeing that your website appears and functions identically across all browsers, as they are all interpreting a website’s code in different ways. In fact, compatibility issues are common across web browsers.

Cross-browser tests can be done manually or with automated testing tools, like UIlicious. Consider trying out our cloud-based software for free today! You will be able to test across browsers and devices; for this you'll just need to register now (it takes 2 minutes).

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