What is cross-browser testing?
Cross-browser testing is the process of ensuring your web application or website is compatible with different browsers. Cross-browser testing can help you verify if your website works as expected across various browsers, operating systems, devices, and resolutions.
Why is cross-browser testing important?
Cross-browser testing allows you to identify and fix any issues prior to release to ensure every customer has a positive user experience with your product. If a user comes to your site and the app (functionality) performs as intended, they get what they need and are likely to come back. That’s why the user experience is so critical. If a user has trouble with your app—it performs poorly, takes too long, or doesn’t work effectively on their chosen browser—you’re in a heap of trouble. They are likely to go elsewhere, never to return. In fact, according to research from McKinsey & Company, 25% of customers will abandon a brand after just one bad experience! This means without thorough testing, you risk losing customers (and their associated revenue) forever.
To be successful, your web application must deliver a flawless user experience to your customers, giving them the digital confidence that will turn them into loyal users and truly set apart your product or service.
How does cross-browser testing work?
Cross-browser testing techniques typically require a mix of manual and automated testing to identify differences and issues with a web application or website across multiple browser/OS/device combinations.
When developing a cross-browser testing approach, software development teams create test cases that detail the specifications, input, steps, testing conditions, and expected outcomes for each cross-browser test. The following are some cross-browser test cases:
Performance: Tests app/page loading times, image/video loading times, and other performance metrics.
Basic functionality: Tests basic functionality like dialogue boxes and menus, form fields, handling of first-party cookies, and seamless touch input for mobile devices.
User interface: Checks that the application’s fonts, images, and layout match the product’s design specifications.
Accessibility: Tests that users with disabilities can access the app in compliance with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG).
Responsiveness: Tests the app on different screen sizes/orientations/resolutions.
When is cross-browser testing done?
Cross-browser testing should happen during each stage of the software development lifecycle (SDLC). While the cross-browser testing approach can vary for different companies, in general, any team that is responsible for the design, development, and quality of web applications is most likely to perform cross-browser testing. For example:
Web development teams perform cross-browser testing on new features to make sure they are compatible with different browsers before the code is released to production.
Quality assurance (QA) teams use cross-browser testing during staging/pre-release to evaluate the end-user experience and test the build’s compatibility with multiple browsers to ensure that it meets the specific quality standards.
Other teams can be involved in cross-browser testing as needed.
Automated vs. manual cross-browser testing
When determining how to do cross-browser testing for your app, you’ll need to decide how much you automate the process vs. how much you perform manually.
With manual testing, a human tester performs the tests step by step and executes test scenarios without automated test scripts. This enables manual testers to check on application elements (such as look and feel, usability, etc.) that do not get easily highlighted with automated testing and better evaluate the product from an end-user viewpoint. Depending on the project, manual testing could take hours or weeks to accomplish.
With automated testing, tests are executed automatically in Selenium, often using commercial test automation frameworks and tools. This allows you to shorten your release cycles and ship code faster. There are situations where both types of testing are needed, and a balanced test strategy includes both.
How to select and prioritize browsers for cross-browser testing
When getting started with cross-browser testing, you’ll need to determine which browsers to test on. Taking a strategic approach to selecting browsers can optimize your testing strategy and maximize market coverage.
Learn more about the factors to consider when determining your browser mix.
What tools are used for cross-browser testing?
An important consideration when developing your cross-browser testing approach is whether to build or buy the testing infrastructure. Depending on your goals, you can consider building an in-house browser and device lab. This option is suitable in cases when you have specific hardware/environment needs or security requirements. However, it calls for higher investment, dedicated resources, and careful planning to keep up with the latest device types and browser versions.
While some organizations may choose to build their own internal grid using Selenium and maintain internal machines or devices themselves, this option can be costly and time-consuming. The alternative is to subscribe to a cloud-based testing platform that enables functional testing of web and mobile apps without the need to purchase or maintain the physical infrastructure, allowing your organization to cut costs and get started faster.
Another major benefit of cloud-based cross-browser testing is that it enables parallel testing. Running automated tests across multiple browsers at the same time increases the speed and efficiency of your testing process, reducing overall testing time and costs. Cloud-based cross-browser testing also allows for visual testing, which helps catch visual regressions before they make it through production so you can make sure it looks right no matter what.
Getting started with cross-browser testing
Getting started with cross-browser testing requires thoughtful planning to ensure a smooth and effective rollout. The first step is to choose your testing platform/infrastructure based on your organization’s unique needs and requirements. The right solution can help your software development team scale testing coverage without compromising speed or quality.
Next, you need to develop a comprehensive strategy for how to incorporate cross-browser testing into your CI/CD pipeline. Your cross-browser testing strategy should align with what your organization needs to accomplish. The strategy should begin with clear goals. What does success look like to you? Determine where you want to go, exactly what you need to test, which browsers to test on, what types of tests you’ll run and when, and how you’ll manage the process.
After planning and building your strategy and determining what infrastructure will best meet your testing needs, it’s time to execute your test strategy. Start running tests to see where you need to focus your development efforts. And most importantly: refine your tests to constantly improve and ensure your efforts have a direct impact on product quality.
Learn more about best practices for developing an effective cross-browser testing approach:
The Sauce Labs Continuous Testing Cloud gives you access to all the latest browser/OS combinations and enables you to quickly reproduce user scenarios, identify issues, and fix bugs faster. Having a shared testing platform can be especially beneficial as it can improve collaboration and visibility between teams and help you work toward common goals. For example, if you’re using Sauce Labs, you can easily invite others to view your live testing session or share video recordings and screenshots via Slack or HipChat. Similarly, having the test results stored in one platform allows you to have several options (Public, Private, Teams, etc.) for quickly sharing these results with other stakeholders.