Cross Browser Compatibility: Vital to Website Development
Cross browser compatibility scripting is vital to ensure a smooth user experience on many web browsers. Learn more about the process to achieve better results.
Written by RamotionMar 29, 202314 min read
Last updated: Aug 22, 2023
Digital presence has become crucial for businesses to survive in the modern era of technological advancements. While physical stores have their place, online marketing is a significant part of the process. Digital interaction via the internet has increased businesses' reliance on web apps. A web page becomes the online representation of an enterprise and plays a vital role in customer engagement.
Thus, web app development experts ensure that the overall outlook of the web application is proper and follows a standard representation of the business. The issue arises due to various web browsers on the internet. Users could use any one of the available options. It leads to the additional challenge of ensuring that the web page appears the same on each browser. Hence, website compatibility becomes an important marker of a business’s success and user experience.
In this article, we will explore the idea of website compatibility when it operates on various browsers. We will discuss common browser compatibility issues and methods of testing websites to ensure they are browser compatible.
Read along to understand how web developers ensure cross-browser compatibility by addressing various compatibility issues and applying different testing techniques.
Defining cross browser compatibility
Since web pages are crucial to defining the user experience online, web developers focus on developing web applications that can effectively interact with users. While they might design the app using a single browser, it does not specify that the user will also use the same browser version.
As many browsers are available today, it is vital that the web page works and looks the same on all the other browsers. It leads to the idea of cross-browser compatibility that focuses on creating website compatibility on various browsers. The concept aims to create a uniform and efficient user experience for the customer on multiple browsers.
What is cross browser compatibility?
It is the ability of a web application to run on multiple browsers without any issues and in a similar manner. Hence, it ensures website compatibility with different browsers, improving the overall experience for all web users.
Hence, it is essential to identify and address all possible cross-browser compatibility issues, ensuring similar functionality of the web pages on all browsers. It creates an increased challenge for web developers to not only find out the possible compatibility issues but also carry out appropriate testing methods to present the best design and features of the web page on various browsers.
Let’s take a look at some of your favorite browsers and then explore the different ways to address browser compatibility issues that web app developers commonly face.
A Peak Inside Your Favorite Browsers
Before we dig deeper into cross-browser compatibility, we must explore the popular browser options in the market. It is only through fully understanding the variety of browser choices that you can understand the gravity of challenges developers face when creating compatible web applications for all the available browsers.
So when it comes to browser choices, users sometimes need to be aware of different options. Since every browser offers the same standard functionality, it becomes tricky to identify the factors that can help you decide on your preferred browser. Let’s look at some of your favorite browsers and the various functions they offer.
Which are some of the most popular web browsers?
Following are some of the best modern browsers in use nowadays:
- Google Chrome
- Apple Safari
- Mozilla Firefox
1. Google Chrome
It is the most popular browser option available, and rightfully so. It offers easy integration of Google Accounts on multiple devices, making compatibility testing a simpler process. It has a robust set of features, including one of the most extensive extensions available via the Chrome Web Store. Navigation, password management, and data syncs are easy tasks on Google Chrome, making it one of the most used browsers.
2. Apple Safari
Its unique aspect is that it is the default web browser for all Mac and iOS devices. Safari was the first of the browsers to introduce the reading mode. The browser os combinations work well across all Apple products, making it a popular choice in that niche market. Moreover, it is faster than Chrome and prioritizes user privacy and data security. The only downplay is that it is only available to the Apple ecosystem.
3. Mozilla Firefox
It is one of the old browsers that has been around longer than Chrome, making it more friendly to run older websites correctly. However, modernizing the browser has also allowed it to support the latest HTML and CSS capabilities. It is easily the next popular browser with a modern interface, improved readability, and focused privacy protection.
Now that you understand some key features of the popular browsers, we can explore browser compatibility issues more.
Cross Browser Compatibility Issues
Digital platforms nowadays offer several browsers for internet access. Hence, a web app developer cannot focus on a single browser while ignoring the others. It has led to an increasing need to focus on browser compatibility of the websites that enable smooth user experience of the web app on different browsers.
When developers often adjust the web apps' functionality on several browsers, they encounter multiple challenges. It creates cross-browser compatibility issues that can adversely affect the user experience. While multiple browsers can create problems, numerous variations in the types of devices used for access add another factor to browser compatibility issues.
Let’s look at some common browser compatibility issues web developers face during the compatibility testing phase.
What are some of the most common browser compatibility issues?
Some of the major cross browser compatibility issues include:
- Layout compatibility
- Vendor specific functions
- Outdated browser detection
- HTML/CSS validation
- Lack of testing on real devices
- DOCTYPE error
- Style sheets issue
One of the most common browser compatibility issues is linked to the website's layout. Since it also determines the web page's first impression, it is crucial to the success of an enterprise. The problem primarily arises due to the variation in the user-end devices. A wide range of screen sizes, resolutions, and orientations are present with the different gadgets in the market. A single website is expected to look efficient and user-friendly on all platforms. This adds a whole new dimension to already existing compatibility issues of the web app from one browser to the other.
It is a standard practice of developers to rely on CSS resets to achieve some design freedom when working on web apps. However, it can create compatibility issues when the app is shifted from the target browser to another available option that does not support the suggested design. The web application design can also become nonresponsive, which leads to an unusable page for the user. The problem mostly arises when shifting from older browsers to modern ones, as the supportive tools vary significantly.
A popular solution among developers includes using float commands to design a floating image inside a text box. However, the solution is not ideal and has its own set of limitations. A major issue is that designing a complete web page layout is highly impractical with the floats and cannot be managed in the long run.
Vendor Specific Functions
Since a different vendor designs every browser, each has its own set of commands and structural demands to run the codes. When designing a web page, developers need to keep these differences in functionality in mind when writing the backend codes. The differences are usually found in the prefixes attached to the functions in a code. Some of the common prefixes include:
- webkit - Android, Chrome, Safari, and iOS
- ms - Internet Explorer
- o - Opera
- moz - Mozilla Firefox
While some browsers might use no prefixes, others might use particular ones to allow the code to run. A mismatch of these vendor-specific details can create browser compatibility issues when a website runs on multiple platforms. Hence, the developer must ensure the presence of the relevant prefixes when working on a particular browser.
Outdated Browser Detection
Browsers are a representation of the technological advancement happening all around us. Hence, they also undergo constant updation as the world progresses in its modernization of the internet and online platforms. While it is a good thing and happens at a very fast pace in present times, it leads to a whole new set of compatibility issues in the web development process.
Another issue arising from using multiple browsers is the backend code validation of any web application. Since each browser handles codes differently and distinctly, it leads to a lot of complexity in code reading and the output displayed to the user. A simple part of a code, like a closing tag, can determine the performance of a web page on any browser.
While Google Chrome can manage these missing closing tags by autocorrecting the codes, Internet Explorer cannot do the same. It is a minimal issue but can lead to severe differences in the presentation of the web content on both browsers. It makes browser testing a complicated process where developers have to analyze the backend codes to ensure the HTML and CSS commands are validated in various browsers.
Using code validation tools is an easy way to deal with such issues. Most of the tools available in the market are powered by W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), primarily including Jigsaw CSS Validator and W3C HTML Validator. You can also find other options like JS formatted for validation detection of HTML, CSS Lint, JS Lint, and others.
Lack of Testing on Real Devices
Browser compatibility testing becomes a vital part of dealing with compatibility issues. In an ideal scenario, the developers should get genuine feedback by running the website on multiple devices and browsers in real time and observing the output. While it can provide the highest quality of testing results, the process requires a device lab where access to all possible devices and the latest browsers is available.
The demands of testing on real devices in highly unrealistic and expensive. Thus, the developers have to rely on simulated environments and replicated results to debug and improve the overall functionality of the code. It can improve the web application performance on browsers, but there remains a chance for multiple browser compatibility issues to arise.
It is preferable to be extra careful of cross-browser compatibility issues while developing a web application. The process is easier to handle and less complicated. Moreover, online platforms with access to multiple cross-browser combinations can be used to test the web application.
The DOCTYPE error is linked to the particular command in the programming of a web application that allows the browser to determine which HTML version to look for. A missing DOCTYPE command can cause issues in correctly reading the codes, leading to the mismatched representation of web pages on different browsers.
The issue arises due to the browsers working in strict and quirk mode, where error checks are strict in the former scenario, unlike the latter. If a code is missing the DOCTYPE command, the browser shifts to the quirk mode and reads the codes improperly, leading to an erroneous display of the website. However, it has the most straightforward fix, as it only requires adding the code - !DOCTYPE html - at the beginning.
Style Sheets Issue
Cascading style sheets are often used while ensuring cross-browser compatibility to override the default layout of the browser. It allows more freedom for the developers to implement a custom-made web layout. While the idea is excellent to work with and can lead to innovative and interactive websites, it can easily be overdone.
Style sheets can quickly become bulky and difficult to manage. Moreover, each browser handles the style sheets in a particular manner. The outlook is different for each browser. It adds complexity to handle browser compatibility of the website across multiple platforms. An intelligent way to work around this complication is to keep separate style sheets for each browser.
The various sources of mismatch in codes, style sheets, and backend programming errors lead to various issues when a web application is tested on multiple browsers. While each of these compatibility issues can become a real challenge, there are ways to ensure cross-browser compatibility. Let’s explore ways to provide better compatibility testing results for any web application on different browsers.
Ensuring Cross Browser Compatibility
While working on the same browser is more straightforward, it is not a practical approach to building web applications. Thus, it becomes crucial to ensure cross-browser compatibility as it guarantees a better user experience for the end user, leading to better business performance.
Some of the standard practices to ensure browser compatibility are as follows.
Check for Validation
Code validation is one of the best practices to ensure browser compatibility. The aim is to revisit the HTML and CSS codes written by developers and review them very closely. Since minor issues can lead to more significant compatibility issues, it is a good practice to write a well-aligned code and add comments to it wherever necessary. Moreover, validation tools make the process faster.
Create a Systematic Process
It focuses on finding the correct balance between compatibility testing and web development. While the initial developmental stage should be completed on a particular browser, testing completed parts of the website of different browsers is also beneficial. While the former allows a more cohesive process when developing a part of the website, the latter highlights cross-browser compatibility issues earlier in the development process.
Use Appropriate Frameworks and Libraries
While these specific practices significantly simplify the process of ensuring cross-browser compatibility, several online tools assist in the compatibility testing process. Some of the best testing tools include:
- Browserling - it is a live browser testing tool with access to all the latest browsers
- TestComplete - it is a UI functional automation tool that can run tests on any web application.
- LambdaTest - it offers cloud-based browser compatibility testing by running automated Selenium scripts.
With the right practices and tools in place, you can ensure cross-browser compatibility of your web applications.
Cross Browser Compatibility Testing
With multiple browsers available for users, it is crucial to ensure that a web application works properly on any one browser. The process that checks the correct functionality of a web app on a particular browser is called browser compatibility testing. However, different browsers demand modern web pages to function correctly on various platforms, and the process is called cross-browser compatibility testing.
While browser testing focuses on a particular browser and its challenges, cross-browser testing has to cater to multiple browser features. It makes the latter process more complex and time taking. Moreover, modern businesses need cross-browser testing to ensure a practical user experience for their customers.
Hence, browser testing is an integral part of the process and becomes easier to execute after a better understanding of possible compatibility issues. Developers need to perform cross-browser testing to ensure the smooth functioning of the web pages. These tests can be run both manually and automatically. The manual procedure requires the tester to check each web element separately, while the other uses automation tools to check it via test scripts.
Another standard practice for cross-browser testing is to strategize browser selection. If an environment has a clear priority of browser selection, it is crucial to focus on that particular browser and clear all issues before proceeding to other cross-browser tests. It is also preferable to concentrate on high-risk browsers during browser testing to automatically clear the web app for medium and low-risk browsers. Other practices include using virtual machines to test browsers or executing the mobile-first approach.
Cross-browser compatibility is a crucial point of focus for modern-day developers as users have access to various browsers to access a single web application. The situation becomes more complicated due to the range of devices available in the market, leading to greater challenges in making websites cross-browser compatible.
Hence, proper website functionality and interactive user experience on various platforms make cross-browser compatibility a vital aspect of modern digital businesses. With the right app development strategy and accurate browser testing plans, cross-browser compatibility is more straightforward.