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Mastering Cross-Browser Testing: Enhancing Customer Experience in a Fragmented Browser Test Landscape

Learn what Cross-Browser Testing is, why it’s important, what makes it difficult and the right automation testing tools to master it.

Mastering Cross-Browser Testing: Enhancing Customer Experience in a Fragmented Browser Test Landscape


Let’s start with a platitude: in today's digital age, customer experience is paramount! Since numbers don’t lie, let’s see how the above translates in an industry like banking: 

  • A survey by J.D. Power revealed that a significant 7% of customers switched banks within the past year due to unsatisfactory customer service experiences! 
  • A survey by Novantas based on 4 million U.S. banking customers found that 15% of bank customers switched banks due to a better mobile app or online banking services

The above underline the critical role that customer satisfaction plays in attracting and retaining clients in highly competitive industries. To ensure exceptional user experiences, companies must invest in cross-browser testing, a practice that evaluates the performance and consistency of websites and web applications across various web browsers and versions. 

This blog post explores the vital aspects of cross-browser testing, its challenges, and the tools that can effectively support this process.

What is Cross-Browser Testing?

Cross-browser testing is the process of ensuring that a website or web application functions correctly and appears consistently across different web browsers and their various versions. 

It involves testing a website or web application on multiple browsers to identify and address compatibility issues, rendering discrepancies, and functionality errors, thus providing a consistent and optimal user experience for visitors regardless of the browsers they use.

Understanding the Importance of Cross-Browser Testing

The key driver behind cross-browser testing is customer experience. With a growing emphasis on digital interactions, businesses must prioritize delivering a seamless experience across the array of browsers customers use.

Poor browser compatibility can result in lost customers, as evidenced by the studies mentioned above, which means that investing in cross-browser testing actually becomes a strategic necessity to prevent such losses and maintain customer loyalty.

Looking back at the banking scenario I mentioned before, an internal web application for employees probably only needs to be compatible with a single, IT-enforced browser. That makes it easy to ensure new releases work well. Also, user experience is not as critical for internal apps as with external facing ones. In contrast, the bank's web-banking portal, serving millions of customers every day, needs to function seamlessly across a multitude of browsers and versions that cannot be controlled by the bank’s IT. 

Getting the Highly Fragmented Browser Usage Right

With the ever-evolving web, QA teams face the challenge of ensuring compatibility across a vast array of browsers and versions. Latest statistics indicate that the leading browser is Chrome (by far!), with Safari, Edge and Firefox coming up next but followed by a slew of others, with new versions and niche browsers emerging constantly: 

Source: StatCounter - Global Browser Market Share

Balancing comprehensive test coverage and efficient test execution within the SDLC timelines is a constant juggling act.

To strike a balance, QA teams should turn their attention to the data they have available in-house in their analytics tools that gather insights into the browsers and versions that are currently being used by their audience. By analyzing real user data from production environments, teams can identify the top-performing browsers and versions, ensuring that they focus testing efforts where it matters most, enhancing the efficiency of their testing process.

Another key aspect to consider is the fact that browsers launch new versions on a monthly basis. Here’s a view of Chrome version launches in the last 12 months - you see a spike when a new version is launched and then how fast (typically around 2 months) the next version replaces the previous ones:

Source: StatCounter - Global Browser Market Share

Staying Future-Proof

Staying current with these updates is essential to maintain compatibility and security. Unfortunately for QA teams, it’s not enough to select a set of browser/version combinations today and stick to those for a long period of time - the list needs to be continuously updated.

And for teams maintaining their own test infrastructure, supporting the new browser versions implies a lot of maintenance work to the infrastructure, that requires time and resources (which we all know are always scarce)! 

The good news is that modern testing execution tools can keep QA teams updated with new browser versions to support their test runs, automatically. This ensures that you can continuously adapt your coverage of browsers/versions to match the latest ones being used, without the overhead of maintaining the test infrastructure yourself.

The Miracle of Parallel Test Execution

Another problem that pops up as you increase coverage, is that you hit a performance and scalability wall: testing too many combinations might prove impossible to do in a useful timeframe that matches the SDLC release cycles. That’s where harnessing Parallel Testing comes into play. By running multiple tests in parallel, QA teams can effectively execute tests simultaneously across multiple browsers, drastically reducing test run cycles. This accelerates the testing process even when you’re broadening test coverage. 

Final Thoughts

Investing in cross-browser testing is not just a matter of best practices - it's a strategic imperative for businesses looking to excel in the digital landscape. 

By recognizing the importance of customer experience, leveraging analytics for informed decision-making, and embracing parallel testing tools, QA teams can ensure their websites and web applications thrive in the fragmented world of web browsers, creating exceptional user experiences and safeguarding customer loyalty.

At Element34, we are committed to helping QA professionals overcome many of these challenges with our test execution and automation solution. To learn more about how Element34 can empower your test automation journey, get in touch with our team today.

Lee Walsh
Lee Walsh
Director of CS
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