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Cross browser testing

Cross-browser testing is one of the most annoying, tedious, time-consuming parts of web design. The worst part about it is that it really should not be necessary.

These days unless you are using lots of CSS3 techniques and html5 most modern browsers will render pages in a very similar fashion (with exceptions of course).

However, when you go back through older versions on Internet Explorer you’re basically looking at a world of pain to get your website looking as good in those. It isn’t impossible of course but it takes time and practice.

One of the biggest problems is testing: how do you check that your website performs properly in all browsers? There are a number of alternatives:

below are the ones that I have used and have found to be useful at different times along with my final tool of choice that I now use daily to check out cross-browser compatibility. It should be said that there are paid services that I have not used which allow you to use a remote machine of the relevant type with the relevant browser and check your website – crossbrowsertesting.com being one of these.

If you don’t have access to lots of machines with various operating systems like Linux, windows7, windowsxp, macOS, freeBSD etc etc and have all the various versions of browsers installed on these then there are various possibilities:

browsershots.org is a brilliant website – you just key in your webpage url and then their software runs on a load of computers out on the internet collecting screenshots for you to view in a webpage when the results are ready.
The downsides are that it can take a long time to render the screenshots, as a free user you are limited to being a non-priority user in the queue (however you can donate for priority), and all you get is a screenshot of one page. If your entire website uses only page type then ok. The big downside is that it only provides screenshots – you cannot check functionality, ineractivity, taxonomy etc etc.

That said – for a tool that you can just set running and then come back later and examine the look of your webpage accross dozens of different browsers and OS it does a very good job.

Multiple Installations

Firefox, chrome, Safari etc play nicely with older versions in that you can install them side by side on your system and they will work fine independently. The same cannot be said of IE which will not happily run multiple instances side by side without programmatic intervention. Under XP it was possible to run multiple IE’s using a particular tool but that has now disappeared.
If you have windows 7 professional or ultimate license you can use the MS Virtual Machine to run up multiple instances of Windows and test your website in those. Other alternatives are VMWare and my favourite – VirtualBox.

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