Demystifying the Fundamentals of Cross Browser Testing


    This is an internet-dominated world, where an online presence for any kind of business is a must! Brands can be established, traffic can be attracted, conversions can be made by a single website or mobile application. Hence developing an excellent website or web/mobile application is the primary goal of every organization. But developing a good web application is not at all a cakewalk.

    As per the statistics, nearly more than 65% of the mobile app uninstalls happen due to a distorted UI, device fragmentation, non-responsive designs which happen due to incompatibility issues. Cross browser testing eliminates all the bugs caused due to incompatibility issues in applications which enhances the quality of the UI and provides the best user experience to the customers. Hence cross browser testing is crucial for an application’s performance. So let’s learn what is cross browser testing and also discuss the strategies for successful cross browser testing.

    What is Cross Browser Testing?

    Cross Browser testing is an application testing method to test the application for achieving compatibility between the various browsers, devices, and operating systems.

    Incompatibility is a major challenge that every mobile application owner has to face and this is due to frequently releasing upgraded versions of browsers, devices, and OS.

    Let’s understand this with the help of an example, in the figure below, there is a “change” in the UI element of the application due to the change in the types of browsers. As shown in the figure below, the corners of the Twitter login box are rounded in the Chrome browser whereas in the IE browser the corners are sharp.

    Cross Browser testing is done to get rid of all the bugs that appear due to incompatibility in various versions of devices, browsers, and OS.

    Cross Browser Testing
    UI Errors in Login Box due to change in Browsers

    Hence in Cross Browser testing, testing is performed for the various combinations of the browsers, os, and devices. Mostly the test cases for cross-browser testing are similar, all we need to do is re-run the test cases in multiple iterations. Due to its repetitive nature automation testing is ideal for cross-browser testing. In Manual testing, it is extremely difficult to cover more browsers and devices for testing. Hence mostly automation testing is utilized for Cross Browser testing and with time it has evolved, we will discuss the unique ways for improving cross-browser testing through test automation, but before that let’s understand the need for cross-browser testing.

    The need for Cross Browser Testing?

    When it comes to mobile application testing, device fragmentation is the elephant in the room. Device fragmentation is a phenomenon that occurs in applications when some users are using the older version of the operating system while others are using the latest and the greatest version. Device fragmentation issues can also occur due to the incompatibility between the device OS combination, OS device combination, browser device combination, device browser combination, screen size, form factor, etc.

    To solve this issue, we need to test the application through the various combinations of devices, browsers, and OS. Otherwise, the complete GUI of the application can get distorted for some devices, can experience device responsiveness issues, and most importantly the functionalities of tested. Here cross-browser testing comes into play. Cross-browser testing ensures that the various combinations of the devices, OS, and browsers are compatible. Parallel testing combined with automation testing is the key to achieve efficiency in cross-browser testing. So let’s discuss some o the unique ways to improve Cross Browser compatibility.

    5 Strategies for successful cross-browser testing

    1. Choose the right set of devices and browsers:

    Choosing the right set of devices, browsers and OS is a must for bringing accurate results for achieving cross-compatibility in devices, os, and browsers. You can make a list of all the latest visions of the OS, devices, and browsers that your users are using. To get an idea of what kind of devices and browsers your customers are using, you can take the help of google analytics.

    In google analytics, as shown in the figure below, under the audience on the left-hand side, mobile and device, you can check all the mobile devices used by your customers.

    Cross Browser Testing
    List of Mobile devices used by target market in Google Analytics

    Similarly, under the mobile and overview and setting the secondary dimension as the browsers, you can get the list of all the browsers used by your audience.

    Cross Browser Testing
    List of Browsers used by your customers in Google Analytics

    Also, you should be aware of the latest versions of Browsers and OS used by your target market, even if it’s not listed in your analytics list. To do so you can get the data from sites like W3Schools, W3Counter, NetMarketShare, StatCounter, and Statista. Moreover, make sure to remove the retired versions of browsers and OS.

    2. Choose the best UI test tools and frameworks:

    Though Cross Browser testing is very complicated, we can make it simple by using the right set of tools and frameworks. Once you have set the foundation by choosing the right combinations of OS, browsers, and devices, it’s time to choose the right type of tools and frameworks.

    UI testing frameworks for web applications

    When it comes to cross-browser testing, the most popular, reliable, and robust test automation framework is Selenium. It is one of the easiest web testing frameworks to learn and also to adapt by the QA. Both the selenium web driver and selenium grid can be used for cross-browser testing.

    Below is the architecture of Selenium Webdriver

    Cross Browser Testing
    Selenium Web Driver Architecture

    Selenium web driver API enables interaction between the browsers and the browser drivers. One of the greatest advantages of using the Selenium web driver is that it can be used in many programming languages like C#, Ruby, Java, PHP, Java all in a different programming language.

    The test scripts are written in any programming language in the client library. The entire test script is converted into the JSON format and the JSON wire protocol does the job of transferring the data between the client and the HTTP server.

    JSON is made available to the browser drivers through HTTP protocol. The browser drivers interact with their respective browsers and execute commands by interpreting Json. As soon as the browser driver gets any instructions, they run them on the browser and this response is given in the form of an HTTP response. In this way, we work with different browser drivers and browsers simultaneously in the selenium web driver.

    Selenium Grid can also used be used for Cross Browser testing

    Cross Browser Testing
    Selenium Grid Architecture

    In Selenium Grid, you can run multiple tests across different browsers, devices, and os in parallel. This is achieved by routing the commands through a centralized hub to remote browser instances connected in parallel with each other.

    The advantage of the selenium grid is that it executes a single test on multiple devices and browsers at the same time. It consists of hubs and nodes where the hub receives the access request from the webdriver client, post which the hub routes the JSON formatted commands to the browser instances or nodes connected in parallel.

    Hub: The hub accepts access instructions from the web driver client and executes them on the remote devices through Json protocol.

    Node: Nodes are the devices or the browser drivers connected to the hub where the hub routes all the commands and executes them on these nodes. The nodes receive commands in the form of JSON test commands and execute them using a web driver.

    UI testing framework for Mobile Applications

    Cross Browser Testing
    Appium Client-Server Architecture

    Appium is the most popular test automation framework for testing mobile applications.

    As shown in the figure, for Appium Architecture above, all the automation test scripts written in any programming language are written on the client-side. The Appium script is converted via web driver wire protocol or JSON wire protocol into Http rest-based request which can be understood by the Appium Server. Now the Appium server executes the automation scripts on the mobile application using a native automation framework. There is a specific framework supported by a platform, for eg. XCUIT is supported by IOS, and UIAutomator2 is supported by Android. So the Appium server interacts with these frameworks and runs the script to perform automation testing on these applications.

    This is how Appium executes the test automation scripts on different mobile devices. Hence Appium can be used for testing devices with different OS, hence it is platform-independent. It is an open-source tool for testing native applications, mobile-web applications, and hybrid applications. You can write test scripts in any programming language like C, C#, Java, Ruby, Javascript, etc. So all these features make Appium the best automation testing tool for mobile application testing.

    3. Make use of automation and parallel testing:

    One of the most efficient ways to achieve accuracy and speed in Cross Browser testing is the combination of automation testing and parallel testing. Automating your selenium test cases is a must and even parallel testing is a must as we have to Cross Browser test several devices.

    For example, If you were to test a combination of 10 different browsers and devices through a test case that takes 10 mins to execute, normally using only automation testing it will take 100 minutes to execute, but with parallel testing, it will take only 10 minutes to test the entire task. Hence, parallel testing allows performing testing for multiple browsers and devices in the shortest time.

    Hence the combination of both automation and parallel testing will drive the task of Cross Browser testing to the optimum level.

    4. Using a cloud platform is the best for Cross Browser testing:

    Investing in a cloud platform is the best you can do, for efficient Cross Browser testing. As we know how complicated Cross Browser testing gets as it involves testing multiple devices in parallel. Hence setting up a physical device lab for parallel testing can get very complicated and costly. In a cloud platform, you can avoid the huge bucks required for constructing the device lab and also the effort in maintaining the physical device lab.

    Cloud platforms can easily integrate a good test automation framework and offer a conducive environment to perform parallel testing. Then what better than a Cross Browser platform for performing Cross Browser testing. Last but not least cloud platforms can be used 24/7 and can be accessed from any part of the world. This is an added advantage of the cloud platform as it won’t disrupt your Cross Browser testing in any condition

    5. Using highly scalable platforms

    In Cross Browser testing, after selecting the number of browsers, OS, and devices, we run the test cases on different combinations of devices. Also one of the best practices is to reduce the number of older devices or the devices which are not simply required.

    Hence we need to use a testing platform where we can add or remove any number of devices easily to test the application on the right combination of devices to achieve accurate results.

    The platforms where we can easily add or remove devices are called scalable platforms. Here scalability refers to the ease of adding or removing devices in a testing platform so that the testers can work on the desired set of devices to achieve accuracy in the test results. For example, cloud testing platforms are highly scalable, because being virtual software testing platforms adding or removing devices is much easier than a physical device lab.


    Today websites and mobile applications have the potential not only to attract traffic but also increase conversion and retention rates. Only websites with excellent user experience can make all the difference and why not as it is the first and last impression of your online shop. Hence cross browser testing should be brought into practice by using top-notch test automation frameworks. Even cloud platforms like pCloudy which supports the integration of all robust test automation frameworks are the best choice as it yields maximum results with minimum labor and financial investments.

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