Why is Cross-Browser Testing Important for Your Business Website?

Not all web browsers were created equal and that's something any good web developer should be able to tell you. Whether it's Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Microsoft Edge, different browsers display websites differently.
10/03/2016 04:43 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

2016-10-01-1475346714-7791820-crossbrowsertesting.png

Image credit: Cross Browser Testing

Not all web browsers were created equal and that's something any good web developer should be able to tell you. Whether it's Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox or Microsoft Edge, different browsers display websites differently. That's no surprise considering that each browser vendor has a different vision as to how their browser should work, what their browsers should support and how the web should evolve in general. Every browser vendor wants to prioritize their own special features that only work in their browsers. They want to fine-tune existing features to work better in their browsers, and of course they want to gain a bigger market share for their browsers.

That's why you need cross-browser testing to make sure your websites look, feel and function similarly in all web browsers. So what is cross-browser testing exactly and why is it important for your business or personal website? In this article, I'll explain everything you need to know about cross-browser testing.

What is cross-browser testing?

Any website is made up of many different components and how a browser deals with those components varies massively browser by browser. For example, JavaScript code can behave completely differently in Internet Explorer than how it does in Google's popular Chrome browser. Or, for example, a design element can appear bigger in Opera, but smaller in Safari.

Performing cross-browser testing ensures that these components work seamlessly and as intended across all the different browsers. While Chrome is undeniably much more popular than other browsers on the market, that doesn't mean you should neglect users viewing your website through a different browser. Over 5% of the Internet users still use Microsoft's Internet browsers, over 17% use Firefox, 3% use Safari and 1% use Opera. With that in mind, not testing your website in these browsers will alienate more than 26% of your website's visitors. You don't want to do that. You want to make sure everyone has a pleasant user experience on your site.

Cross-browser testing is essential to ensuring JavaScript, Applets, Flash, AJAX requests, and web design elements all work as intended in every individual web browser.

Why is it important?

Cross-browser testing is more important than ever before. The process that was once used only by the most complex projects has now become mainstream. As more and more people create websites the only way to stand out from the crowd is to have a really professional website. What if your next customer is using Internet Explorer? You don't want to leave him out. Even more, with the raise of responsive web design, having a responsive website that works in all browsers has become incredibly hard.

Also thrown into the mix are mobile browsers. When it comes to testing, web developers were once only required to test how a website looks and performs on desktop computers (Mac or PC). However, that's all changed. More and more customers are shopping and finding services using their mobile devices, so it's important to ensure that a website is working perfectly on those devices, too. But with so many different mobile and tablet browsers on the market and so many different devices (Androids, iPhones, Windows Phones, iPads, etc.) it's nearly physically impossible to test. You'd have to spend thousands of dollars to buy all the devices. Therefore you need a good cross-browser testing service to do that.

How do you perform cross-browser testing?

I hope you can now see how important cross-browser testing is in web development process. But how exactly is it conducted?

Obviously, the simplest way to test a website across a number of browsers is to create a testing checklist of components and test them in each browser. If you're an individual web developer or a small web design studio working on medium-complexity web projects, then this is a pretty straight-forward process that shouldn't take too long and it won't cost an awful lot either. You'd need half a dozen virtual machines, and an iPhone and Android. The cost would be about $2,000 per year. However, this process is a lot more daunting for larger websites and applications when many people work on the project. You'd need several dozen virtual machines, a bunch of iPhones, Androids, iPads and Windows Phones. The cost would now be $10,000 per year.

Fortunately, there are other options available. You can turn to an external agency to conduct your cross-browser testing for you for about $500 per month, or you can take advantage of a do-it-yourself online cross-browser testing service for less than $100 per month. Do-it-yourself approach has the benefit that you get to control which platforms you want to perform testing on and you don't have to spend extra money on extra services or new devices. An online service takes care of providing the latest browsers, mobiles and tablets so you don't have to buy them. Compared to an external testing agency, the process of using an online service doesn't have to be long and drawn out, and it can save you a lot of time and money in the long run.

In conclusion, however you go about doing it, the process of cross-browser testing in modern web development is of paramount importance. Web users today are spread across a number of different web browsers and devices. It's important to make sure that your websites are ready to serve each of those users, no matter which browser they're using.