Developing a website is akin to being a true friend; your work is never done. As with anything that revolves around computer codes, there’s a very solid argument to be made that in the world of web development, the practice of QC might be just as important as the initial development process, if not more. On top of making sure that your website works and looks just as great as you’d envisioned in the first place, you also have to make sure that your website doesn’t take forever to load and isn’t a nightmare to work with.
For WordPress, a platform that is vulnerable to optimization issues by way of wonky themes and plugins, it’s advisable to take a WordPress health checkup to see how well, or badly, your website is performing. One thing that isn’t always known however is that the performance of your website might vary from one browser to another and that there’s a lot more to browsers than just Chrome. This is why for web developers and businesses, the importance of cross-browser testing should never be underestimated.
Getting a second opinion
As an analogy, take a look at the numerous talent shows that are available on TV. Have you noticed that there is always more than one judge in those shows? This is because in terms of performance, there’s more than just one criterion to measure and the decision on how to weigh each of these criteria depends on the preferences of each judges. In terms of vocals, one judge might be biased for contestants who can reliably hit the high notes while another might be biased for contestants with distinctive vocal textures.
It’s not an apples-to-apples comparison with web browsers but the basic principle remains the same. Each browser has their own way of dealing with codes and even browsers based on Chromium that powers Google’s very own Chrome might differ here and there. Factor in mobile browsers and legacy browsers such as old versions of Internet Explorer and you’ll soon end up with dozens of platforms to test on. That is a lot and for small businesses with limited resources, testing each and every one of them is decidedly impractical but luckily, you don’t actually have to.
Testing for the more popular browsers
While there are dozens of currently active browsers that are available on the market as we speak, they all typically fall under one of the three browser engines. The first and the most prominent is the Blink-based Chromium browser, which powers Google Chrome, Opera as of 2013 and Microsoft’s Edge which at the time of writing is still on the process of moving to Chromium. Because of Chrome’s outsized market share, it’s common to see businesses optimizing for Chrome and its Chromium brethren only but this is far from ideal.
The other two browser engines, Mozilla’s Gecko that powers Firefox and Apple’s WebKit that powers Safari, are no less important. This is because for some people, browsers are very much a dedicated lifestyle choice, like being a vegan. Well, perhaps not as extreme as being a vegan but you get the idea. Safari is pretty much an extension of the Apple community and in iPhones and iPads, Safari’s status as the default browser is locked so that’s quite a sizable market you’d missing out on if you’ve never bothered optimizing for Safari.
Firefox used to be the browser of choice a decade ago but that has since changed with since the introduction of Chrome. Still, habits are notoriously hard to break and Firefox made a huge leap in terms of performance with the release of Quantum, the latest major overhaul of Firefox, in late 2017. It didn’t exactly made any huge waves in terms of numbers but my experience with Quantum has been almost uniformly positive and Firefox remains by browser of choice, which leads me to my next point.
Works best with Chrome
Do you know how annoying it is for me to get that message when I’m surfacing the web? Whenever I see these sorts of messages, it doesn’t really matter if the website in question actually works just fine with Firefox, I still would usually close the website in question unless the information I’m looking for can only be found there and that is very unlikely. For me, it’s a matter of principle, if you as a business, never considered the 30% of the world’s population that isn’t using Chrome, why should we be willing to give you a piece of our time, much less our patronage?
I could outline several bullet points here on why cross-browser testing should be high on your to-do list but really, as a business owner the only reason you’d need is because this is for the benefit of your (potential) customers. If you want to talk about numbers, let’s use another analogy but this time from the world of fashion. In 2016, the actress Leslie Jones tweeted about there were no designers willing to dress her for the premiere of that year’s Ghostbusters reboot because Jones is considered a plus-sized woman. Designer Christian Siriano quickly stepped up to the plate and came up with a red gown for her to wear to the premiere.
It’s a terrific feel-good story for both of these people but it has to be said that Siriano was quickly rewarded for his deeds. In an interview in 2018, Siriano stated that he tripled his business by adding plus-sized clothing to his fashion line. Sure, it would involve more work for your business in trying to accommodate for browsers other than Chrome but you should think of this as expanding your customer base instead. It should also be noted that this isn’t something you have to do alone; there are free tools such as LambdaTest that you could use to make cross-browser testing easier.