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Strategies for optimizing browser compatibility testing

In this expert response, consultant Karen Johnson describes strategies she uses for browser compatibility testing. Experience and knowledge of common vulnerabilities and developers' preferences can be helpful in knowing which areas to attack first.

Can you give me some guidance about how to optimize our browser compatibility testing?

There are a couple of strategies that I’ve used to optimize testing time in what I think of as “cross browser” testing.

1) Work closely with the developers, and listen to their ideas and guidance.

One of the most practical solutions to streamlining testing time for cross browser testing has been working as closely with the developers as possible. Developers who are conscience of the time and effort it takes to support a wide range of browsers and operating systems can also be conscience of where JavaScript is being used as well as other vulnerable CSS and HTML properties. By highlighting the pages and areas of the site, I can target testing. I often set up multiple PCs on a workbench with different operating systems and browsers, log into the site as different accounts (to avoid creating unnecessary issues with sessions) and check the same pages on different browsers at the same time; I find compare and contrast is a ready way when I can see different browsers at the same time.

2) Learn the vulnerabilities of the website you’re testing.

Although guidance from developers is great, there’s no reason I can’t do some investigation on my own. I use View Source on a Web page to become familiar with the inner workings of pages and functional areas. Over time, experience with the application leaves me knowing where to look, but when a new page or new feature is added or I’m working with a site for the first time, this is one way to do some investigating. Another is looking over defects to find areas of the application that are vulnerable. Past knowledge is helpful.

3) Use the “other” browser.

Over and over, I find developers have a favorite browser and tend to stick with one browser throughout development and their testing efforts. I start my testing with the browser they don’t use and find cross browser issues very quickly this way. For a long time, it came down to developers using Firefox and me working in Internet Explorer more. But in recent months with HTML5 and Google Chrome picking up market share, what “other” browser to use first is a little trickier but not much. Now in addition to knowing where JavaScript errors are likely to be introduced, I’ve been focused on HTML5.

I’ve written on the topic a number of times, so it’s probably no surprise to hear me mention languages. I work with Right to Left Languages frequently enough that I often look to different browsers to check scrollbars, displays and diacritical marks to think about not just other browsers but other languages. In the case of cross browser testing it’s the handling of Right to Left languages that I’m most on the prowl for.

This was last published in March 2011

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