Short answer – both. In fact, they are not mutually exclusive, as we will explain here.
Gone are the days when web developers created websites for just a couple of browsers on the desktop. Web technologies were in its nascent phase and there were few deviations in the behaviour of browsers. In the last decade, a variety of browsers have gained market share to become significant players. Further, the browsing habits of end users have changed to include innumerable mobile devices to access the internet, in addition to traditional PCs. In such a situation, processes such as cross browser testing and responsive design testing have become instrumental to the process of web and application development.
In this post, let us try to dive deeper into cross browser testing and responsive design testing to understand what suits your development environment the best.
What is Cross Browser Testing?
Cross browser testing is the process of assessing your web application’s functionality across different browsers on a variety of devices. In addition to this, cross browser testing also involves an accessibility check — whether your website is compatible with assistive technologies such as screen readers. The primary aim of cross browser testing is to ensure a seamless experience for the end user irrespective of the device and browser that your content is viewed on.
A cross browser test typically involves testing whether all the functional parts of your website are rendered correctly across browsers. Additionally, one must ensure that no elements overlap and the rendered navigation is appropriate and user-friendly.
BrowserStack Live is a cross browser testing tool that allows you to test your website on browsers of a range of real desktop and mobile test devices. BrowserStack Automate supports Selenium, an open-source tool to help you automate various tests, which you can integrate into your build process with continuous integration.
Here is a detailed tutorial on cross browser testing, which outlines the key elements of cross browser compatibility testing, an approach to selecting which device-browser combinations to test on and tools that help you in cross browser testing.
What is Responsive Design Testing?
With an increase in functionality of front end languages for the web, the way in which various browsers rendered the same code changed. Responsive web design, coined with a forward-looking view by Ethan Marcotte in 2010, defined guidelines for web developers to follow in order to make their web applications usable across various devices and browsers. Responsive web design has evolved over the years, but the core philosophy of making your web content device agnostic remains constant.
While incorporating responsive design in an existing project is a challenging task, one would do well to include the responsive design guidelines when starting a project. The process of responsive design testing is generally the final step in adhering to responsive web design. You can use the same tools for responsive design testing that you may have considered for cross browser testing.
Here is a detailed post on Responsive Web Design that lists down different considerations for creating responsive web applications, the various elements that you should assess as a part of responsive web testing and tools to consider for the process. There is a concrete responsive design testing checklist created by BrowserStack too.
Which Option is Right for You?
Now that you are aware of the nuances of cross browser testing vs responsive design testing, you may ponder — which option is right for me?
Before answering the question, one must understand that cross browser testing and responsive design testing are not mutually exclusive ideas. Cross browser tests are inherent to the principles of responsive web design. Therefore, you should look at these terms as part of the same process of creating a great end user experience.
If you are starting out on a web based project, you should definitely incorporate principles of responsive web design. If you are asking this question for an existing, fairly complex project, you should at the very least try to incorporate cross browser testing to identify any potential usability issues for end users. Once you have identified possible issues, you may then decide to solve them either in an ad-hoc fashion or assimilate a responsive design process into your development cycle.
The key takeaway from this post should be to view cross browser testing as an integral part of responsive web design. While responsive design principles must be incorporated into a new project, cross browser testing serves as the first line of defense for existing projects. Cross browser testing should also be an absolute must for every website, to ensure a great user experience.