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With browsers like Chrome and Firefox rolling out updates more frequently, two things have become major concerns for all software developers and testers.
- Will a website or web-app work perfectly across newer browser versions? How frequently does browser compatibility testing need to be done to ensure flawless UX?
- If a website or web-app has been developed for the current version of any browser, exactly how many of the older versions does it need to be compatible with? How does one go about testing a website on older browser versions, anyway?
This article will focus on and discuss the second question in detail.
If a website is compatible with the current version of Chrome, Firefox or any other browser, that’s great news. But it would be unreasonable to assume that all users will have updated their browsers at once. It is entirely possible, especially for older users to be more comfortable on an older browser version.
In this case, not ensuring that the website is compatible with older versions might lead to a significant loss in traffic and revenue. Additionally, bad UX can also lead to negative reviews for a brand, resulting in a less than desirable reputation in the market.
So how does one test on older browser versions?
Test on a platform that offers real browsers
This one is a no-brainer. There is no better option than to test your website on real browsers. By testing on the real thing, a developer or tester gets to see how real end-users would interact with their website.
BrowserStack offers a diverse range of real browsers for this very purpose. For example, one can test on Chrome versions 15 to 96, Firefox 3-94, Safari 4-14, and so on. The whole infrastructure is cloud-based, so all one has to do is sign up, log in, choose browsers and start testing. No downloads, no maintenance, nothing.
On top of that, all browsers are hosted on real devices, so the user actually gets to verify how a website looks on a certain browser as it loads on a certain device. This is especially helpful for responsive design testing of a website. A user can also leverage this Responsive design checker for the same purpose.
Installing older browser versions
This is a time-consuming but reliable process. Much like the above, it allows for testing on real browsers which is always the best way to ensure a website’s stability with a particular browser version. However, installing and testing on old versions manually can take a while.
In this regard, it makes sense to first figure out which versions the majority of users are likely to be accessing a certain website with. The best way to accomplish this would be to tap into website analytics. Keep in mind that one obviously cannot test for every possible version with this method, but it will offer accurate results and is preferable over any method that does not involve using real browsers.
Now, one can always go for simulators and emulators but remember that they can never completely replicate all the features and sometimes the flaws that a real browser carries. If QAs keep testing confined to the real thing, they won’t be risking any unpleasant surprises for end-users. And that, at the end of the day, is the real aim of any software testing process.