How to approach Cross Platform Testing
Shreya Bose, Technical Content Writer at BrowserStack - February 11, 2022
What is Cross Platform Compatibility? Why is it important?
Cross Platform Compatibility means that the mobile application should function uniformly irrespective of the OS platform and version.
With the mobile platforms witnessing a major split between the Android and iOS platforms, each having a significant market share, it is important to deliver consistent user experience across the platforms. While Apple successfully tries to keep iOS Fragmentation minimal and ensures that users upgrade to the latest version as soon as possible Android fragmentation makes it challenging for the app developers to offer a consistent user experience across the spectrum.
That is why it is vital to create an app that is cross-platform compatible to offer a consistent user experience no matter which device or OS version the user accesses the app on. Hence, Cross Platform Testing is essential to check if the app functions consistently across different device-os combinations.
What is Cross Platform Testing?
In a nutshell, cross platform testing or multi platform testing verifies that a website or app functions as expected across different online platforms – web and mobile.
But let’s expand a little.
With new devices, gadgets, and versions of operating systems (desktop and mobile), sites and apps are accessed from multiple device-OS combinations. Each device has its unique screen size and resolution, while each OS may have different versions (Android 9 Pie, Android 8.1 Oreo, iOS 15, iOS 12, etc.).
For example, the same app can be accessed via a Galaxy S21 or a OnePlus 9. While both run on the Android OS, the app must be specifically designed for each device and corresponding OS.
This forms the crux of cross platform testing. No matter how expertly the app/site is designed, it won’t count for much if it cannot run in real user conditions.
Importance of Cross Platform Testing
With the explosion of the internet, users all over the world have the choice to use whatever device, browser, OS to access the web. In other words, your application will have to render and work flawlessly from different devices and the OS they work on.
To ensure the above, products must be tested on as many platforms as possible – especially the ones in popular use. It is a good idea to start with the most popular ones or at least the ones your target audience is most likely to use.
Cross platform testing accomplishes exactly this objective. It is an integral part of software quality assurance. It entails cross platform browser testing as well as cross platform devices testing – mobile and desktop. This form of testing identifies issues as they may appear on specific devices, browser versions, OS configurations – in terms of usability, consistency, UI, and performance bugs.
Without cross platform testing, perfectly usable apps may malfunction on different browsers or browser versions, or different operating systems or their versions. This would alienate large userbases, leading to lost traffic, revenue, and negative review on the software itself.
How to create a Cross Platform Testing Plan
Below are a few overarching guidelines that may help with creating a cross platform testing strategy:
- Understand Your Audience
Start by thinking as an end-user. Put yourself in the shoes of your target audience, and ask “What would they want?”. Dive into analytics to figure out what devices, browsers, and OSes are used most commonly in your domain. Invest in figuring out numbers before strategizing so you know what requirements to prioritize. Not only will this help narrow down the number of platforms to test on, but it will also give you ideas on what features or visuals your target user base might find appealing.
- Choose Platforms to Test On
Once you understand the preferences and behavioral patterns of your possible users, you can decide which platforms to run cross browser and cross platform testing on. For example, if your target audience will be largely American it is safe to say that the iOS platform will be a major choice for them. However, just to be safe, also include the most popular Android versions so that you don’t necessarily miss out on or alienate American users who chose that OS. In case, you are looking for a quick solution, try this tool for free.
- Identify Test Scenarios
It is not humanly possible to test every existing use case on every possible platform. Doing so, even with automated testing, would take far too much time and effort to be remotely profitable in the long run.
Instead, narrow down the most important test scenarios, at least for the initial sprints. You can build up to wider coverage of test scenarios in later sprints. But, in order to release the first version of a product, pinpoint the primary scenarios, implement them, test them and push it to production.
- Utilize Automation
Testing the same use cases on multiple device-browser-OS combinations isn’t just effort and time consuming, it is downright boring. All these factors add up to a greater likelihood of human error and missed bugs.
Consider using a cloud-based automation tool such as the ones offered by BrowserStack. For website tests, you can opt for automated Selenium testing or Cypress testing. BrowserStack users can also verify website functionality via Puppeteer testing and Playwright testing. Automated app testing is also available via Appium, XCUITest, Espresso, and EarlGrey on BrowserStack.
Note that all tests on BrowserStack are run on real browsers and devices. Its real device cloud of 3000+ real browsers and devices allow website and app tests (both manual and automated) to be run only in real user conditions. In other words, all tests verify exactly how a website or app would act when used by people in the real world.
Tests on BrowserStack allow QAs to obtain 100% accurate results and identify all possible bugs before they reach users and disrupt their experience.
- Don’t use emulators and simulators
It might be tempting to download and use emulators and simulators since they might be free or cost much less than purchasing real devices, installing OSes and browsers, and maintaining them in a device lab.
However, emulators and simulators are quite inadequate when it comes to generating accurate test results. Because of certain deficiencies in their structure and processes, they cannot replicate all real-world conditions. In other words, they can create near-native test environments, but miss out on important features that people use frequently (incoming calls, low battery, slow internet connection, push notifications, etc.).
The good news is, you don’t actually have to buy real devices to run tests on them. As mentioned above, you can use a cloud-based test platform like BrowserStack for bother manual and automated testing on real browsers and devices. You get the benefits of real device testing without dealing with the hassles of creating and maintaining a device lab.
How to perform Cross Platform Testing on Real Browsers & Devices
As stated above, cross platform testing is best conducted on real browsers and devices. The step below will depict how to do the same on BrowserStack’s real device cloud.
For cross platform website testing, do the following:
- Sign up for free on BrowserStack. If you already have an account, log in.
- Navigate to BrowserStack Live.
- Once you do, you’ll find the device-browser-OS dashboard.
- Select the device, browser, and OS you want to test your site on. This example uses Firefox 90 on Monterey, which will load on a real Mac.
- Once you click on the browser version, the browser and OS will load on the Mac.
- Once the website loads, browse through it as the user would do in the real world. Use the menu on the left to test the site in various conditions – from different locations, behind firewalls, alongside screen readers, in different resolutions, and much more.
- Once you complete testing the site on this particular, browser, device, and OS, click on the Switch Browser option on the menu. It will take you back to the browser-device-OS dashboard.
Switch to whatever platform you wish to test on next. Repeat the process detailed above, and verify website functionality on multiple platforms for maximum coverage.
As depicted above, cross platform browser testing is fairly simple on the BrowserStack cloud.
Now, let’s move on to cross platform mobile testing. In other words, let’s explore how to test apps on different platforms via BrowserStack.
For cross platform app testing, follow the steps below:
- As before, sign up for free or log in to BrowserStack.
- Navigate to BrowserStack App Live.
- Once you do, you’ll see the device-OS dashboard.
- Upload your own app using the options on the menu. You can also test already published apps on App Store or Play Store. There are also pre-uploaded apps to try if you want to understand how the tool works.
This example will test the Wikipedia app on a real Samsung Galaxy S10.
- Click on the device, and the chosen OS will load on a real mobile device.
- Like in the case of browser testing, scroll through the app and test its features as a real user would. You can use multiple features here as well – change location, network simulation, rotate the device, push notifications, and more.
- As before, once you finish testing on a particular device-OS combination, you can switch to another one by using the Switch Device option on the top menu. It will lead you back to the dashboard and you can pick another device or OS to continue tests on.
Use the cross platform testing examples shown above to go through your checklist of important platforms to test. All you have to worry about is testing all the features with sufficient depth with already available devices, browsers, and platforms. No muss, no fuss.
By testing your software on selected platforms and specifications, you can provide the best possible user experience to your audience. Cover as many platforms as possible, and ensure that your software provides nothing but value, delight, and efficiency.