It is essential that any new web design is thoroughly tested across the various browsers that the target site visitors may be using. This is not as easy as it sounds there are a lot of browsers out there, Windows based users often use Internet Explorer (IE) but can also install additional browsers such as Firefox, Safari, Opera or Google Chrome. Mac uses commonly use Safari but can also run Firefox or Google Chrome. For more information see the W3schools.com Browser Statistics.
While most modern browsers are fairly stable IE 6 and 7 are widely used and are particularly prone to displaying web pages with unexpected quirks. The issue is further complicated by the limitations of Windows when it comes to installing more than one version of IE. In order to test a web design there are thankfully a few alternatives to running a suit of Mac’s and PC’s:
Web Developers working with Windows
Luckily for me and other web developers who work with Windows the installation of the following software provides a good starting point for cross browser testing.
- IE Tester
This fantastic piece of free software bypasses the problem of Windows limiting the number of IE installations on one PC. Currently the software supports versions 5.5, 6, 7 and 8 of IE and you can view your page across all of these versions via a handy tabbed interface.
- Google Chrome
Luckily there is a PC version of this the standard Mac browser.
Web Developers working on a Mac
Unfortunately Mac based Web developers are unable to run any version of IE unless they run virtual Windows software or set up a virtual PC. Alternatives are to purchase a PC for testing purposes or to use the Cross Browser Testing Tools below.
Cross Browser Testing Tools
An alternative to installing software; there are a number of Cross Browser Testing Services available online, some free and some paid:
A multitude of options on this rather confusing website include screenshots and live testing (depending on option selected). Options include testing mobile devices and e-mail; prices start from $19.95 for one day of browser capture, but can sharply increase depending on your requirements.
The service costs from $19.95 per month and includes automated screenshots and live testing.
Adobe Browser Lab
Compare side by side views of your test pages in different browsers using a Flash interface. You will need an Adobe Account to view this site which is free until the end of 2010.