Cross-browser compatibility is a term that refers to websites, web services, and ecommerce platforms that can work across different types of internet browsers and platforms.
Given the sheer number of different options out there, it is impractical for programmers to test their code on every possible scenario or platform. Not to mention, there are people with disabilities that need custom features or people who use older smartphones.
So, it’s crucial to know different methods on how to get around issues that may arise during the design and production process.
In this article, we’ll look in detail on how developers can ensure cross-browser compatibility, and give you some tools for ensuring that your systems are accessible for everyone.
Table of Contents
Rise of the SaaS
First, let’s take a look at a simple solution to achieve universal cross-browser compatibility – Software as a Service (SaaS). Nowadays, SaaS is one of the fastest-growing business models and offers benefits to both businesses and end-users alike. These advantages include better product delivery and reliability while saving costs all around.
However, a more significant number of virtual platforms and userbase can bring new problems. These include a wider surface for DDoS attacks and cross-browser compatibility issues due to the outright range of ways people access their content.
Focusing on SaaS endpoint protection and access through proper code function contributes to the higher goal of making the internet a safer place for everyone.
While today, cross-browser compatibility might appear as a low priority security issue, it is a thorn in the side of almost every web developer, and it will eventually impact end users if the problem is not addressed.
Junior developers begin by coding apps that would work with their browser of choice. Unfortunately, the problem is that what works for you as a developer may not work for someone using Firefox or Opera. Your website or app may not even work correctly if a high percentage of users are accessing it using an older version of your preferred browser.
End users are as loyal to their preferred platforms just as you are to yours, and what’s popular in your region may not work in countries like Japan or Germany. Just as an example, some of the attributes of the latest HTML version isn’t compatible with all platforms.
Having an app that causes a high percentage of users to get an error message when trying to access your app is terrible design, and it’s bad for business.
Solutions for Your Cross-Browser Compatibility Issues
Besides using large-scale solutions like SaaS, there are several other design principles and tools that you can use to ensure that your work is compatible across a wide variety of systems and browsers.
Here are some of our favorites:
- Simplify your code – a good practice since it also decreases load times, reduces the overall lag, and eases the process when updating or maintaining your code. In the context of avoiding cross-browser compatibility issues, this means you can use a single line of code rather than 5 or 6 if that’s all that it takes to make a function perform correctly.
- Use a CSS reset – not all browsers interpret values like margins and padding the same way. You can bypass this problem by including a CSS reset at the beginning of your style sheet. This way, you can set all values to 0 at the outset and have more control over CSS styling without concerning too much about compatibility and interpretation.
- Define valid DOCTYPE – validating DOCTYPES will uncover errors you’ve overlooked and avoided maintenance issues. Running your code through an HTML validator and CSS validator will help you correct any coding issues before your app or website goes live.
- Employ conditional comments – some comments are unnecessary and lead to bloated, sluggish code. You want to remain precise and functional, and you can achieve this by using conditional comments. These will link your stylesheets to your target browser, and it’s especially helpful for overcoming issues that are particular to Internet Explorer, for example.
For example, this comment code will target all Internet Explorer’s versions:
! <–[if IE]> <link href="ie.css" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" /!> <[endif]–>
Additionally, this one will target a specific version:
! <–[if IE6]> <link href="ie.css" rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" /!> <[endif]–>
- Use vendor prefixes – due to the constant evolution of W3C standards, keeping up with the particulars from browser to browser is helpful, yet not always the most popular solution. Many cosmetic elements, such as shadows or gradients, can be handled by style sheets, but you don’t have to worry if one browser doesn’t support your CSS.
You can get around this problem by using vendor prefixes. Here’s a list for the most widely used browsers:
- -moz- for Mozilla Firefox
- -ms- for Internet Explorer
- -o- for Opera
- -webkit- for Safari and Chrome
Now, combine them with transition properties:
-webkit-transition: all 4s ease; -moz-transition: all 4s ease; -ms-transition: all 4s ease; -o-transition: all 4s ease; transition: all 4s ease;
Make Cross-Browser Testing a Priority
Testing should begin by narrowing down your targets. For example, if your app or website will be used predominantly by users in North America, design for the top four or five browser versions in that location. If you expect users from all around the globe, you can methodically preview browser compatibility by accessing servers from various geographic regions.
One of the easier ways to do this is by operating through a full-featured VPN service that allows you to change your IP address as needed. Try including some low-fi platforms and different mobile devices in addition to the most popular ones.
Afterward, go over the preferred/required feature sets and technologies for your project. For example, a real estate or travel company may want to include a 3D virtual tour of a vacation destination. Is this tech supported by a range of platforms and devices? You won’t know until you test it out.
The last part of cross-browser compatibility testing involves segmenting different areas of the website or app to see how they perform on your target browsers. Does the homepage perform consistently from browser to browser? How about product pages and checkout?
It doesn’t have to be 100% identical, but core functions and accessibility should perform on the same level on all platforms that are being tested. If you don’t have the means through available hardware, you can use emulators or virtual machines.
Lastly, a piece of this process is a reliable web hosting service, such as Hostinger. Remember that all the testing in the world won’t be much help if your hosting is less than consistent when it comes to performance. All of your hardware and software contribute to the secure development environment, and that ensures reliable results.
As computing becomes increasingly more and more borderless, cross-browser compatibility issues will continue to be a problem. It’s illogical to expect every country, region, and user to get on board using the same platform.
Developers need to use the techniques and tools currently available to check compatibility with the broadest possible number of internet browsers and tailor development to meet their target market.
If you have any more questions, feel free to ask in the comments section below.