The Importance of Website Testing in Multiple Browsers

At the start of 2019, IT Pro Portal reported that over half of all software running on desktop PCs was out of dateFlash, Skype, and VLC were among the major culprits, but almost one in six PCs surveyed were running Windows 7 and one in ten were running an out of date version of Windows 10. Whilst most consumers replace their mobile phone every two years, the average lifespan of a desktop or laptop computer is now six years.

What does this mean for website testing?

As web developers, do we need to worry about that? Well, it would be lovely if we could ignore it but, sadly, every one of our carefully crafted and lovingly designed websites has to work not only the latest and greatest operating system and browser combinations, but also on the oldest. When you're working in the eCommerce space your focus has to be on transactions - and there's nothing more frustrating than realising that you've lost a transaction because your website failed on the customer's browser.

This is why your website testing has to be cross browser.

What browsers should I test my website in?

For a long time, Internet Explorer was one of the worst browsers to develop for; it ignored some standards, extended others, and things that worked perfectly well in Firefox or Chrome simply didn't behave in IE.

Things have gotten better in recent years and the web development community let out a collective cry of elation when Microsoft revealed that they were adopting the Chromium web engine for future versions of Edge. However, if you popped the champagne corks and believed the browser wars were at an end, I'm afraid you were wrong. That war might be over, but new battles are just beginning.

Our standard list of browsers to test is

  1. Internet Explorer Edge (Latest Build)
  2. Internet Explorer 11 (Latest Build)
  3. Google Chrome (Latest Build)
  4. Firefox (Latest Build)
  5. Safari (Latest Build)

and that's just on the desktop.

What devices should I test my website on?

Over half of all internet traffic is from mobile devices, so it's imperative that your website functions properly across a range of different phone and tablet sizes (or "form factors").

Historically the solution to this was "responsive design", a website design technique that allowed components on a web page to change shape and alignment based on the size of the screen being used.

Today, to pass modern accessibility tests including Google's all-import mobile rendering test for the mobile index, your site has to be more than just responsive. Your website has to work incredibly fast, use compression techniques to minimise the amount of data being consumed, and have a user interface designed for touch

It may sound obvious, but human fingers are much bigger than mouse pointers. Is your interface as suitable for tapping and swiping as it is for clicking and dragging?

Our minimum set of form factors for a mobile test are:

  1. iPhone (Most common current size) in Safari
  2. iPhone (Latest model) in Safari
  3. iPad (Most common current size) in Safari
  4. iPhone (Latest model) in Safari
  5. Samsung Galaxy S (Latest model) in Chrome
  6. Google Pixel (Latest model) in Chrome

How do we test websites with so many devices?

Historically testing across so many different devices meant maintaining a small arsenal of hardware to test with, all of which had to be frequently updated.

Thankfully, there are services available today that will allow you to test your website on a variety of devices remotely. Our recommended tool is BrowserStack. It's a chargeable service, but free for open source projects. If you're unsure whether or not your website works on multiple mobiles, tablets, and browsers, a month-long subscription is a great investment. For a quick test, you can always use Google's own mobile readiness check. If you're a Google Search Console user you may also recieve automated alerts from Google if they think your site has any mobile accessibility issues.

Of course, your website designer/developer should be doing this for you but some agencies still, even if this day and age, consider full cross-browser testing to be an optional extra or the customer's responsibility. 

What should you do about website testing for mobiles?

If you're concerned that your website may not be mobile friendly, you can contact us for a free mobile readiness check, SEO assessment, and website review.

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