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Automated cross-browser testing: Tools and efficient strategy

Note: This is a guest post from ScienceSoft – an US-headquartered provider of IT consulting services and custom software development with 450+ IT professionals. In today post, ScienceSoft would like to share strategies and tools to have an efficient automated cross-browser testing. Hope you see the post helpful.

So you’ve almost made it through web application development. Now, you’re only some steps away from rolling the application out, and one of them is called cross-browser testing, the easiest part (allegedly) of web application testing and a top candidate for automation. This testing effort checks that your app is rendered adequately and performs equally well in the most popular browsers. It may seem a piece of cake: all browsers use HTML, CSS and JavaScript, so a standard-compliant code should probably work equally well in different browsers. But is it really that simple?

Cross-browser testing: Everlasting challenges

When your team starts cross-browser testing, you may stumble upon two issues critical for this testing effort:

  • Numerous browser versions:
  • Chrome (65+ versions)
  • Firefox (60+ versions)
  • IE (11 versions)
  • Edge (15+ versions)
  • Safari (11+ versions)
  • Mobile browsers (iOS Safari, Chrome for Android, Opera Mini, etc.)
  • Numerous OS versions (Windows, macOS, Linux + Android and iOS for mobile).

Obviously, manual testing of all possible combinations even for the latest and most popular browser versions is extremely inefficient, so automation seems to be the only alternative here. However, to work for faster and better testing, automated browser compatibility testing requires a good understanding of relevant tools and a quality testing strategy.

Efficient strategy

test strategy

Building up an efficient automated cross-browser testing strategy boils down to two questions:

“Which browsers and OSes to target?” and “What tools to use?”

  1. Which browsers and OSes to target?

Testing a web application on all browsers available globally is unwise and time-consuming, so it’s better to choose major browsers (IE/Edge, Firefox, Chrome, Safari) in their latest and most popular versions. Apart from that, you should consider regional preferences, as the use of browsers and OSes varies by geography.

  1. What tools to use?

Sadly, a magic tool to test ’em all doesn’t exist. The team has to choose among a vast variety of tools for web application testing and browser compatibility testing itself. However, it’s not as difficult as it sounds.

What tools?

tools

Broadly speaking, automated cross-browser testing tools fall into two major categories: open-source tools and paid tools. Both categories have their pros and cons. We consider them below.

Open-source tools in a nutshell

In 2018, the use of open-source automation tools is to become a trend, and the reasons for this are numerous:

  • Free-of-charge use of the whole tool capacity.
  • User forums enabling automation testing engineers to share good practices and ask for advice.
  • High flexibility of these tools. Testing teams can modify the code and add features they need.

However, open-source tools have a number of pitfalls to consider:

  • Complex get-in. Scripting in open-source tools requires high testing competency. For example, testing with Selenium, a test engineer should be aware of the tool’s specifics: inability to record and play scripts in all browsers except for Firefox without the paid SeleniumBuilder plugin by CrossBrowserTesting, the need to use additional tools (for example, Protractor) to manage waits and more.
  • No official support. While many qualified testing engineers are active on user forums, an official helpdesk is missing. A testing engineer may well get lost in numerous conflicting recommendations.
  • Hidden costs. Many tools (for example, Browsera, Browser Sandbox) have a basic free-of-charge version and a paid version with enhanced functionality that may also be required.
  • Relatively short lifecycle of the tools. Many open-source tools pop up, become popular and then freeze and disappear, as their supporters lose interest in maintaining them.

Resume:

Open-source cross-browser testing tools are suitable for highly qualified testing teams that know all the insides and outs of a given tool (tools). If the team is not mature enough, using these tools will only involve additional costs. However, there are two options permitting to use these tools with junior testing teams:

  1. An experienced team lead to guide a junior testing team. No doubt, this option provides a short-term solution, but its long-term effect can’t be predicted.
  2. QA consulting to train the testing team. This option costs more, but provides for long-term savings, as the team’s expertise will grow and they will be able to use open-source tools freely. So you won’t have to pay tool vendors.

Whatever you choose, testing time will increase due to the time necessary to master new test automation skills.

Paid automated cross-browser testing tools successfully address the shortcomings of open-source tools:

  • Comprehensive support. Tool vendors provide comprehensive support and offer a range of tutorials for newcomers, which significantly facilitates onboarding. For paid tools, the learning curve is less steep, as junior testers can always recur to official helpdesk.
  • Transparent and diverse payment schemes. Tool vendors usually offer several payment schemes tailored for customers’ needs. For instance, CrossBrowserTesting offers three licensing models, from modest $29 to hefty $100 per month.

However, paid tools have their own drawbacks:

  • No modification possible. Testing teams can’t modify the code to add features they need.
  • The end may not justify the means. For short projects (up to 6 months), buying a tool license may involve only additional costs and no profit at all. By the time the testing team learns to use the tool, all the deadlines may have passed.

Resume:

Budget permitting, paid tools are a reasonable choice for junior testing teams requiring thorough guidance. Besides, tool vendors often take many responsibilities (facilitating test environment set-up, ensuring integrations) off the testers’ shoulders.

Still, in many cases, wide-range support needs generous investments, which doesn’t pay off for short-term projects. Besides, testing engineers may lack the motivation to study the tool in detail. In case of any difficulty, they can address the helpdesk ready to offer a hand 24/7. This may cause knowledge slump and ruin further professional development.

Key outputs

Aiming to solve the two cross-browser testing challenges (numerous browsers, OSes and the versions of both), test automation insensibly creates another one: which tools to use?

To solve it, you should look at the project specifics and sensibly evaluate your testing team’s expertise and the available budget. For experienced teams, open-source tools make a good option. For junior testers, this may not work, as open-source tools require high testing experience. In this case, you have three options:

  1. Paid tools that provide an official helpdesk.
  2. Senior-level team lead to guide junior testers through testing with open-source tools.
  3. QA consulting to train the testing team.

This approach will help develop a quality testing strategy and optimize testing time and cost while safeguarding the product quality.

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About [Thanh Huynh]

Thanh is owner of AskTester and also a tester. Thanh cares about how to do better testing and how to help other testers do better testing too. Contact me via: LinkedIn | Facebook | Google+|Email: thanh[at]asktester[dot]com