In this article we will take a look at the current state of modern cross browser testing and how it is possible to leverage proven techniques to gain the most out of the limited testing time available. It is intended for web developers and testers working on small static websites and large scale modern web applications.
My goal is to provide you, the reader, with a detailed guide that answers all questions about cross browser testing from start to finish. To get the most out of this guide you should read it once until the end and then take action in all sections that apply to you, your team and the project at hand. No prior knowledge of browser testing is required.
What Is Cross Browser Testing?
The goal of cross browser testing is to make sure that a website or web application tool looks and works correctly on all desktop and mobile browsers it targets. With the correct thought out testing strategy and process you can achieve this goal without the need to test the system out manually on hundreds of system combinations.
Is Browser Testing Necessary?
Why is that you might ask?
Web Standards Are Not Bulletproof
Did you ever attempt to create a non-trivial application using nothing more than a written specification? Even if the specification is exceptionally well written, thought out questions will still surface during the implementation process because the spec cannot cover all edge cases in advance. This means that the actual implementations in the browser will differ slightly to the specification and other implementations.
Browsers Are Moving Targets
Recently, the vendors have started to take features away in newer versions (in the name of security), which in turn makes ongoing testing even more important and time sensitive.
Before we get into the nitty gritty details of actual testing, it is a good idea to take a step back and define a well thought out testing strategy specific to the current website or web application under test. Ideally this will be done in advance to any significant implementation work.
What Browsers Should You Test?
This is one of the most important decisions you will need to make to minimize the testing effort necessary. Nobody wants to spend hours testing older IE versions only to find out that the targeted users don’t actually use it.
To determine the list of targeted browsers you have a few different options:
- Take a look at existing statistics of the current / old webpage or web application to figure out which browsers are actually used.
- If no such statistics exist you can take a look at overall browser usage statistics.
- For desktop browsers it is always advisable to test for the latest version of the big 4 (Safari, Microsoft Edge, Chrome and Firefox) as this will cover a lot of bases.
- Internet Explorer is a special case because it is no longer actively developed but many Windows 7 users are still using it. If you don’t have a compelling reason not to you should add at least Internet Explorer 11 to the targeted browser list.
- In almost all cases you can ignore other Chromium based browsers like Opera or Brave because they will work just as good as Google Chrome.
- For mobile browsers there are really only 2 targets: Safari on iOS and Chrome on Android. In most cases no other browsers have the necessary market share to make testing worthwhile – possibly with the exception of Firefox for Android.
Manual or Automated Testing?
Cross browser testing can be performed either manually or by using some kind of automation. While automating this process sounds like a good idea, in general you need to keep in mind that there is significant upfront and ongoing work involved in creating all the automated test cases.
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