For developers, cross browser testing can be the bane of existence. Every browser has slightly different rules and standards, and making one website work on all of them can be tedious and time consuming.
It used to be even worse before the World Wide Web Consortium started standardizing the web. Back then browsers like Netscape and Internet Explorer (IE) just rendered websites however they saw fit.
Thankfully, there’s a lot more streamlining in browser development now, and for the most part, your website will probably work just fine on all the standard browsers. However, it may not look great on all of them.
Yes, I’m looking at you, Internet Explorer 6, 7, and occasionally 8!
Web developers anywhere can tell you that the worst offender of browser standards non-compliance is Microsoft, but their browser also happens to be the most popular browser on the planet since it comes bundled with Windows. So, it’s worth your while to be sure your website looks good in IE.
So while you’re at it you’ll want to test your website in the latest versions of Firefox (currently 19, but they seem to update every 20 minutes these days), Chrome, and Internet Explorer for sure, and then work your way backwards. Firefox and Chrome tend to render websites the same way, regardless of the version, plus they more aggressively push their updates, so your viewers are likely to have the latest version anyway.
Internet Explorer is a whole different story (surprise, surprise). Not only do people go years and years without updating to a new version, but each one renders websites based on different rules. So, you’ll need to test your website in IE 10, 9, 8… and as far back as you want to go. Few people (if any) are running anything lower than IE 6, but lots of web developers stop worrying about compatibility around 7 or 8. You can’t win ‘em all, and maybe that person will consider updating their browser.
But HOW do you go about browser testing? Well, the easiest thing would be to have a Mac and a PC running Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Internet Explorer so you can just hop on and check them out. Most people, however, only have one computer, so what you need is a good cross browser tester, and there are tons. Each have their merits but we like these three, particularly because they are free:
SauceLabs - Shows all browsers on all platforms, but with a free account, you only get 30 tests a month. However, this is actually an interactive test, so you can browse through the sites. A big win.
Browsershots - With over 60 browsers, and some you’ve probably never even heard of, this is definitely the most comprehensive browser tester, but it only does screenshots as opposed to the interactive test. It’s great for getting a quick idea of whether your formatting looks okay across many platforms! We’d definitely recommend unchecking most of the browsers, though, because the most browsers, the longer your shots will take to load.
IE NetRender - Only shows you your site in Internet Explorer 5.5 through 10, but it’s quick and easy. This one only does snapshots too, so you can’t test the user interface of the site.