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Cross-browser testing: What is it?

Dec 03, 2021

What Is It?

When developing a website/application that will be used on a browser, for example Google, Internet Explorer or Firefox, you must appreciate that users will open the website/application up on a plethora of different browsers. 

Every browser typically has a set of unique settings, they have their own plugins, and there are certain differences in the desktop and mobile versions of various browsers. This, in turn, means that websites/applications will look completely different on one browser to another.

It is, therefore, essential that services and products that work on browsers are modified, so that they work and behave the same for all users, regardless of what browser they use.

Cross-browser testing ensures that your website/application looks natural and behaves as it should on any browser.


Why Do Cross Browser Errors Occur?

Cross browser errors can occur for various reasons, these include:

  1. A browser is also a type of program, which means it may contain bugs. Unfortunately, the bugs that are found in browsers can impact the way a website works, even if measures have been put in place to prevent large-scale problems. These issues may not be caused by your website, but these problems can be problematic and they must be rectified.  
  2. Not enough real world testing is completed. If browser compatibility is not checked thoroughly, errors will inevitably occur. 
  3. Browser manufacturers are often trying to outperform their competition, in order to gain a competitive advantage. However, this does not mean that every browser runs smoothly. Each browser has unique features and functions that may or may not be used, and they can occasionally hinder how a website works. Often, not enough time is given to testing each tiny feature, so inevitably errors pop up and these impact a website. 
  4. Different levels of feature support. For example, the new JavaScript’s features probably won't work on older versions of the browser.
  5. Layout and speed. Websites and applications may run slow, or the content may be displayed incorrectly across different browsers because they’re not compatible with each other. For example, if a website is intended only for desktop browsers, when looking at the website on a smartphone it may not fit the screen correctly.


How Is Cross Browser Testing Completed?

Cross browser testing is typically completed once other forms of testing have been done. 

As a rule, customers want their product to work with as many browsers as possible and across various devices. Developers and testers can advise their clients which browsers should be dominant, and how the product creation process should be oriented towards it. 

In order to understand what browser is important, customers and developers need to study their target audience. 

Here are some statistics to show you the number of users for each browser system as of 2021: 


 (Source: Backlino)


Google Chrome is the most popular across many countries, therefore, it’s usually used as the main browser for testing. 

When the initial bugs have been found and have been fixed using the dominant browser, you can expand the testing to include other browsers, so that the product reaches more of the target audience.

If you cannot test other browsers, operating systems and hardware, you can use a computer emulator (these are special tools/software that allows one computer to act like another type of tech system), or you can use virtual machines.

Here’s what usually happens during cross browser testing: 

Testers examine the main characteristics of the product, this generally includes the layout - fonts, the location of elements, the functionality of buttons - these are the things that are noticed at first glance. 

After this they analyze the programming language, like JavaScript across different versions of the browser(s).


Benefits Of Cross Browser Testing

Here are the benefits of cross browser testing:

  • Determine incompatibility issues, so they can be rectified quickly.
  • Prevents you from turning away part of your target audience.


Tools Used During Cross Browser Testing

Let's take a look at some tools that are used during cross browser testing. 

  1. Ghostlab. This service allows you to synchronize your testing efforts. All you have to do is drag the website's URL code into the Ghostlab system and click ‘Play’. By doing this you’ll be able to scroll, click your mouse, perform updates on all possible browsers and devices at once. This tool allows you to test the entire user experience of your website as quickly as possible.
  1. BrowserStack. This testing platform provides users with real-time browser testing abilities. So much so, that users can get on-demand access to browsers (there are over three hundred combinations available), operating systems and mobile devices so that they can test their website. It can be used in the cloud, which means no installation is required, and built-in tools, including Firebug Lite and Microsoft Script Debugger, for example, allow for quick cross-browser testing and debugging.
  1. Sauce Labs. Sauce Labs enables you to test your websites on hundreds of different browsers and devices in the cloud, while also providing comprehensive tests for Selenium, JavaScript, Mobile and Manual. There are no VM installations or maintenance requirements, and you can manually check the errors found while running tests. Sauce Labs displays the tests performed in chronological order, with information about platform testing, runtime, build and progress being presented to the user.
  1. Browsershots. This service helps you take screenshots of your website in different OSs and browsers (more than 60 different options are available). This approach allows you to conveniently complete a check of your product simultaneously on a large number of browsers. After entering the website’s address (in the verification line), it appears in the testing queue. After testing is completed, screenshots will appear one by one on the summary page. This process, depending on what you choose, can take up to 2 hours (but it’s usually much faster in most cases).

Problems That Can Occur If Cross Browser Testing Is Not Completed

Below are some examples of issues that might pop up if you don’t do a cross browser test:

  1. When exiting full-screen mode the layout of the website does not change when it should.
  2. A scroll bar does not scroll as it should.
  1. No error message pops up in one browser version when you’ve added the wrong amount of characters into the password field.
  2. Pictures or page elements are cropped in a specific browser but shouldn’t be.
  3. Different fonts are used across browsers.
  4. Check-box names are displayed off center.


Cross browser incompatibility spoils the end-user experience for people who come to and use your website/application, and as a direct result, this may damage the reputation of your business. 

So, it’s vital that you explore cross browser testing in more detail and invest in it. Having professional testers testing your website/application can make a tremendous difference to its success. 

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