Cross Browser Compatibility Testing: Challenges & Mitigations

Browser Compatibility Testing

In the current scenario, to be connected virtually is the new normal. The use of advanced technology and digitisation of business requires enhanced use of the internet. Be it the need for an enhanced ROI or expansion of their online reach, businesses have to make use of responsive web-based applications. Ensuring an app’s compatibility across browsers and devices is a necessity they have to comply with, if they want to get results.

Cross Browser Compatibility Testing — A Short Introduction

Cross browser compatibility testing offers the best solutions to enable app compatibility across devices, browsers and operating systems. However, developers face several challenges while trying to incorporate it within the QA workflow.

Nevertheless, before tackling the challenges, it is best to understand what cross browser testing means. Simply speaking, it tests to see whether the functionality and usability of an app is uniform across the variety of OS, browsers and browser versions available. Thus, its goal is to improve user experience and make it hassle-free.

Cross browser compatibility testing is important because it helps to:

  • Compare the functionality and UI design of an app across different browsers
  • Bring consistency in the app behaviour across platforms, browsers, devices etc
  • Make websites more accessible
  • Enable easy and consistent navigation

Top Challenges Faced in Cross Browser Compatibility Testing

For most, the world of browsers is limited to the use of Firefox, Chrome, MS Edge, Opera and Safari. But globally, the number of browsers used is much more. This makes cross browser compatibility testing daunting as it faces different challenges like:

1. CSS/HTML Validation

Different browsers handle code in different ways. Thus, validation of CSS/ HTML codes can prove to be a challenge. So sensitive are the codes that even something as minute as closing a tag could give rise to an error. While some browsers auto-correct these errors, others do not. This might also give rise to errors.

2. DOCTYPE Error

Something as simple as missing a basic line while writing the code can give rise to this type of error. Some browsers that still use outdated versions often render a website improper if the Doctype is missing.

Generally speaking, browsers operate in two different modes. They are:

  • Strict mode wherein the codes are strictly checked to see if they follow the W3C specifications
  • Quirks mode where code errors are not checked so meticulously and hence older version browser compatibility is also ensured

For webpages with a missing Doctype tag, the browser uses the Quirks mode of operation. Simultaneously if the browser is not compatible with HTML5, the webpage would be incorrectly displayed due to the presence of unresponsive tags.

3. Browsers are Updated Regularly

While standard OS and resolution remain the same for longer periods, browsers are updated every 6 weeks to 8 weeks. The working methodology followed in Agile development ensures the same. Thus, testers need to perform cross browser testing for all version combinations every 6 to 8 weeks. This could create an issue since in the newer versions, some elements are removed and some added.

4. Automation of Cross Browser Compatibility Testing

While automated web browser testing helps speed up the app release cycle, a lot of time and effort goes into selecting the right tools and preparing for the same. Test scripts have to be written, capabilities have to be defined etc. Thus, automating cross browser testing across multiple OS, browsers and devices can be tricky and pose a challenge for the testers.

5. Scores of Different Combinations

The presence of innumerable browsers along with multiple versions of the same, poses one of the important challenges to cross browser compatibility testing. It is almost impossible for businesses to host all those devices, browsers and versions, in-house. It is also impossible for testers to test all possible combinations of the same manually.

6. Visual bug Testing for All Screen Resolutions:

Manual testing an app for visual errors can be time-consuming. Alternatively, the use of test automation can also be tricky especially when detecting broken website or web app layouts. Several different test environments have to be created. This can make the whole process very complicated especially when innumerable browser, version, OS and device combinations are considered.

7. Multiple Browser Test Execution

Simultaneous execution of tests or parallel testing especially on multiple OS, browsers and versions poses one of the most common cross browser challenges. Parallel testing effectively reduces the testing time. But carrying it out manually requires the investment of time and resources since tests have to be run for a variety of browser-version-OS combinations.

8. No CSS Reset

Browsers generally have certain CSS styles with individual design layouts incorporated within them. For a website to implement its default structure, it needs to override the browser CSS defaults. In instances wherein this is improperly done or even if a browser does not have an inherent CSS styling, the web pages will be rendered differently.

Alternatively, the removal of the browser’s default design can also give rise to layout compatibility issues.

9. Detection of Outdated Browsers

A browser running an outdated version of JavaScript will inevitably give rise to browser compatibility issues. Since older versions are not compatible with modern versions, loading pages with newly incorporated elements can pose quite an issue.

10. JavaScript Browser Detection Failure

In comparison, HTML and CSS are more permissive than JavaScript. Since JavaScript is very rigid when handling unrecognised features or errors, many old browsers do not recognise or support new features implemented within an app using ECMAScript 6. This can also pose a challenge in cross browser compatibility testing.

Overcoming the Challenges of Cross Browser Testing

Testers need to find ways to overcome the challenges and ensure the quality and performance of the app developed. Some of the ways by which the compatibility testing challenges can be overcome are:

  • Using a tool with the ability to automate the testing process may be challenging but worth the effort
  • Based on visitor stats, cross browser testing can be prioritised so that browsers and devices with the highest number of users are tested first; this will reduce the need to test the app on every device, browser and its versions thereby making cross browser testing more effective
  • By automating the cross browser compatibility testing process and coming up with a comprehensive platform made up of legacy browsers as well as the latest ones, testers can keep a track of the new browser versions also
  • Manual testing for visual errors is time consuming and this can be solved by using a selenium based tool that ensures UI testing seamlessly across different screen resolutions
  • By using automated tools that enable faster parallel testing, the challenge to test multiple browsers simultaneously can be resolved

Other challenges can be resolved by applying simple solutions like adding a code, using W3C validators, CSS reset style-sheets, incorporating a moderniser with an incorporated fallback mechanism etc.

Every challenge faced in cross browser compatibility testing has a solution to overcome it. Since the efficiency and accuracy of the app developed is at stake, these solutions need to be incorporated to increase test efficacy.

About the Author

QA InfoTech

QA InfoTech

Established in 2003, with less than five testing experts, QA InfoTech has grown leaps and bounds with three QA Centers of Excellence globally; two of which are located in the hub of IT activity in India, Noida, and the other, our affiliate QA InfoTech Inc Michigan USA. In 2010 and 2011, QA InfoTech has been ranked in the top 100 places to work for in India.

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