A web page is created to have an online presence. Visitor traffic is a very important factor for online success. One of the variables that significantly affect the web pages’ accessibility to the targeted visitors is the web browser. However several browsers are currently in use and each of these web browser interprets the HTML tags differently, thus affecting the web pages’ appearance and accessibility.
Web pages may appear and function differently, depending on the computer hardware and software configurations. There is always an ongoing and concurrent innovation or development of hardware, operating systems, browsers and screen resolutions. There are many other factors that determine the computer’s configurations. It is imperative that a web developer should watch out for and test for browser compatibility.
The web site should have acceptable compatibility standards, with at least the most popular browsers (Firefox, Internet Explorer, Opera, and Safari), in their different versions and in terms of release level, and the operating platform (Windows, Macintosh, Linux, etc.). The web site should also undergo cross browser testing to ensure its online stability, appearance and success.
What is cross browser testing?
Cross browser testing, also called browser compatibility testing, measures how well a web page is displayed on the desktop, and in what manner it functions with all the major browsers. It is also a type of validation system for the web site created. Therefore, it is an essential part of the web page development process.
In the early 1990s, the numbers of web browsers were not too many. In fact, the so-called browser war was mainly between the Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. Now, there are probably over 100 different kinds of browsers and each browser has more than one different version. In fact, it is too much to consider for online compatibility! Fortunately, the top five web browsers are used for surfing by almost 95% of the web surfers. However, this fact still poses some problems, because each browser has many variations and versions.
For example, Firefox 3.0 has many versions for just Windows XP alone. This basic information gives an idea of how much cross browser testing a developer still has to do to ensure cross browser compatibility among different versions. There are specific and specialized procedures for testing each browser. However, the test covers the list enumerated below.
Test and see the web page online: You can test the browser on multiple browsers like IE8, Firefox, Safari and Opera. There are so many browsers available now and most of them are free to download. Some of them could be better, while a few of them could be the best in the world. It is of immense benefit for the web site developer to look for information on current trends for popular or most downloaded browsers. Different IE versions need separate tests, because they manage and handle HTML tags in different ways.
On multiple platforms (Windows, Macintosh, and Linux): You may wish to conduct the test on different OS platforms like Windows, Macintosh and Linux. Different OS’s handle codes differently and hence one will need to treat them separately.
On a cell phone or PDA: This may seem insignificant and inconsequential as of now, but there is an increasing trend of people accessing web through their cell phones or PDAs. Internet users are mostly the advanced and professional types, for whom the issue of mobility is very important. Energy saving devices is also popular and a cell phone definitely uses less power than a personal computer.
On text based browser (Lynx): Text based browsers also handles codes differently and you may need to conduct a cross text based browser check independently of all other browser checks.
On remote access compatibility: The test conducted to check remote access compatibility would validate how a web page would function in a real-time situation.
While conducting the browser compatibility test, you may need to evaluate whether the display inconsistencies are acceptable or not. Every browser will have some inconsistencies embedded in it. However, the important goal is to have them at acceptable and minimum levels, so that web pages still function as they are designed to. Major problems occur when menus do not work or when the navigational features fail to function. Sometimes, fonts may not look the way they should or images may not look as they should have; in such cases, you will need to fix the errors immediately.
There are a number of cross browser testing tools available online, but they are sometimes expensive. You should note that the most reliable testing method is still using the software at hand to know which browser it is compatible with. Cross browser testing is a unique way of knowing the real ability of your web programs when used online. A great application will be compatible with all browsers, with all types of plug-ins and under any type of browsing environments.
Cross browser testing – Its Importance and Ramifications
A business will succeed only when it has a dedicated web site. A web site is the heart and soul of any business and it should function in a proper manner to ensure better visibility and online features. A web portal that is not compatible could be a big disaster. Thus, cross browser testing is an important process that can enhance the visibility and functionality of a web browser.
A properly executed cross-browser testing is necessary to have a truly global, user-friendly and search engine friendly web site. A web site, like a newspaper or a magazine is supposed to be visited and viewed by as many surfers as possible. Following are the benefits of having a cross browser compatible web site:
User accessibility: Ensuring that your web site works across all multiple browsers is one of the ways of achieving the goal of creating maximum traffic and incoming links. Many other factors determine web site accessibility and opera-ability. For a web page to be called cross- or multi-browser compatible, it must display and function at an acceptable level or appearance, navigation and accessibility, with at least the five main browsers.
Search Engines Accessibility: Search engine appearance is the foremost important factor that affects the commercial viability of a web site. If major search engines cannot find your web site, then there is very little chance that you will succeed in your online business. Web users search for a particular product, service or even information by visiting a major search engine like Google or Yahoo.
Cross web browser compatibility ensures proper search engine indexing, without any problems, by the different search engines. Better search engine indexing means increased incoming traffic and links to your web site. Unfortunately, many web sites are not accessible, just because they were un-tested for cross browser compatibility.
Positive Business Image: An accessibility failure can lead to negative impressions about your web site and business. If there are problems with navigation and appearance, your online reputation will suffer too. If your web site is reliable and trustworthy, site visitors will keep coming back to your web site.
The home page of a web site is just like a front desk of a corporate office. Ensure that you keep your web site visitors impressed with a good web site that displays all features. Never ever, make your web user go away just because you have a very bad web site.
Tips for a Cross-Browser Compatible Web Site
- Use the normal standards of web design like XHTML and CSS code.
- Use Document Object Model (DOM)-standard Java scripting
- Use lesser amount of plug-in related content and make sure to test the browser for flash and other multimedia plug-in.
- Test for compatibility with at least the five main browsers (Internet Explorer 6/7, Firefox, Opera, and Safari), including the old IE releases like IE 6
- Do not use Microsoft Publisher to write the web content and tags; it will only work with Internet Explorer. Use professional tools available.
- Use progressive enhancement methodologies and graded browser support. These are modern web development methods to deal with and provide applicable support for the increasing number of browsers. The plan is not to exclude a segment of internet users, because of browser incompatibility.
- Find ways to make the site compatible with the old browser releases, especially if there is significant probability that the web site’s target visitors are still using those old browsers.
You may also need to test the web pages for browser compatibility vis-à-vis their web content. The developer may refer to the ‘most popular’ browser statistics tool available online for information on the most used browser, but the targeted visitors of the web site should also be given proper consideration.
If the visitors of the web page are someone, who is not likely to be computer savvy, then the web site developer should consider testing for compatibility with the older browsers. Improper and inefficient cross browser testing is like delivering an unfinished web page to the customer.
The term cross browser compatibility became popular in the early 1990s, a time when there was less or no coordination between browser vendors. Cross-browser testing is as much a necessity now as over a decade ago, considering the fact that there is a continuous increase in the number of browsers. However, there are positive developments about cross browser compatibility in general, because of immense competition from open source browsers like Firefox.
While internet users wait for that time, when almost all browsers are
developed to be compatible with each other, adequate cross browser testing is
necessary, so that everyone will get a chance to read the contents published on
different browser. A web page that appears in the way you wanted it to be, will
ensure a successful business that will provide maximum information to the web
user with least hassles.