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Cross browser testing - What it is and how is it performed

(Image credit: Image Credit: Atm2003 / Shutterstock)

Many times, you might run into problems when releasing your brand new website. It may look broken, might not be displayed correctly, or some feature could not be working as expected. It creates a bad impression on the user who, in turn, could leave the website and never look back.

Now, what if you had a test to verify how your website would look across different browsers? You could test and check everything about the site before launching it. That’s what a cross-browser test is: a type of QA test to determine how your application/website works across different browsers.

It is a type of non-functional testing that checks how your code performs across browsers. It also tests the user-friendliness of the application or website.  Normally, along with testing for different browsers (Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Edge, etc.), cross-browser checks also test for different screen sizes (phones, tablets, computer screens, laptop screens, smart TVs) and tools.

Your website may not work equally in all browsers, even if you try your best. However, you have to make sure that it performs reasonably well in all of them. The user should be able to find what they are looking for, and it should add value to them.

Typically, a QA team or QA outsourcing company performs this test. Even though some tests are easy and can be done without much knowledge of coding, it is better if someone who understands the web does it.

Most companies prefer to do this test before and after they have fully developed their application/webpage so that they can test basic modules along with the full application. Doing it at these stages also reduces the risk and cost associated with potential issues. Testing after releasing the website poses the most risk and is the least cost-effective alternative.

Now that you know what a cross-browser test is, let’s see how to perform it.

Set the foundation for the test:

You have to choose a browser and perform a basic test to understand how your website/app performs in the best-case scenario. It can be the browser that you used while writing and testing your code. Keeping this as the foundation, you may move onto the next step.

Planning:

Next, you have to create a plan for how you’ll perform your test. Planning will make sure that you cover all aspects of the browser test. The points you should tackle are:

Functionality: You have to test for base functionality. Functionality testing will make sure that all features (menus, chatbots, links, etc.) are working as expected. It will also ensure that the forms are validated, cookies are being handled, and the database is saving the information correctly.

Responsiveness: The website should be able to fit screens of all sizes and perform perfectly. You have to check responsiveness for devices like smartphones, tablets, PCs, and laptops.

Design - You have to check that all fonts, text, paragraphs, etc. are working perfectly. You also have to ensure that they are adhering to the layout you want. 

Accessibility Tools: You have to make sure that the website works with all the required accessibility features, i.e. those for people visually or hearing impaired.

3. Testing method:

You can do testing manually or through automation. In the manual method, testers create cases on which the website should be tested, and they test them manually, one by one until the website passes those tests. This way is prone to errors, can take a long time to complete (anywhere between a week to a month), can cost a lot, and still not give conclusive results. However, in situations where testing is complicated, and the result is based on user experience, manual testing is preferred as it allows for human observation and deduction.

Automated testing is done when you want to run multiple iterations across many browsers. You should choose this where the use cases can be defined in a single script. In automated testing, bug reporting and processing becomes easier. It is cheaper and takes less time than manual testing. It is also more reliable as the machine code is not prone to human error.

4. Identifying testing tools and infrastructure:

You have to set up your testing infrastructure. There are a couple of ways. You can use virtual machines/simulators for your testing. Simulators are an inexpensive and easy option. But they are not fully reliable, nor are they scalable. The other thing that you can do is set up your own devices for testing. But then you have to maintain them to get accurate results.

Testing tools: There are a variety of tools available in the market that you can use for your test. Some of them are 

Selenium: Best for automated testing, this tool is one of the most popular out there. It is a Mozilla Firefox addon that allows for multiple tests running on multiple browsers simultaneously.

Endtest: This is an automated tool just like selenium, but it doesn’t require you to write code.

Browserstack: This is a cloud testing tool that allows for cross-browser testing across multiple devices.

Browserling: This is a manual testing tool. It will render a test page so that you can check your work without wasting time. It is normally used where you have to quickly perform a test.

5. Performing the test:

Now you have to execute the tests that were defined earlier. Typically the most popular browsers (mainly Chrome and Firefox) should be tested first. After that, you can move on to other browsers. Next, file these records under observation and do the required changes to the code. The test should be repeated until you're satisfied with the final outcome.

Conclusion:

Cross-browser testing is a great tool to test your application in multiple environments. It allows bug fixing and helps in reducing errors. There are many reasons why browser issues occur, such as different implementation, device constraints, etc. But cross-browser testing allows you to handle these problems in a proactive and cost-effective manner.

Malcom Ridgers, Tech Expert, Bairesdev