It’s safe to say that, nowadays, websites and apps are integral parts of our daily lives.
They’re connecting us to information, products, and services, becoming our go-to place whenever we need anything.
To that end, there is one crucial challenge that website owners and developers must tackle to ensure communication between the brand and the client runs smoothly: browser compatibility.
This post explores the importance of browser compatibility, analyzes practical techniques to achieve it, and shows you how browser compatibility impacts user experience, market reach, and overall success in the digital realm.
What is Browser Compatibility?
Browser Compatibility refers to the ability of a certain website or app to appear fully functional on different browsers that are available in the market.
This means that your website’s HTML coding, as well as the scripts on that website, should be compatible to run on all browsers your users might use.
Browser compatibility is crucial, especially today, when there’s a large variety of web browsers available and users’ preferences are as varied as their options.
How It Works
The difference between different browsers is that the mode of translation of the text is different in every web browser.
This mode of translation is used to translate the HTML coding of a website. Although the standard of rules remains, the difference tends to occur with the interpretation of the coding.
Modern browsers in the market tend to be able to easily decode most modern HTML coding far better than older browsers do.
This is the main reason why developers are required to build a website that is compatible with no less than three different kinds of browsers.
If the browser fails to read the HTML coding of the website, either the website does not appear as it is supposed to on that browser or is not completely functional on it.
This adversely affects the reach of a certain website.
In addition to that, website developers must also make sure that the website they are building is compatible with all the different types of operating systems.
Also, the different screen sizes, as well as screen resolutions, must also be taken into account for a perfect display.
Why Is It Important?
Your website’s compatibility plays a huge role in the success of an e-commerce business. The reason is that incompatibility with certain browsers limits the audience of that website. For example, should compatibility issues arise with a specific browser (such as Opera or Bing), there’s a possibility your target audience using the browser won’t be able to browse your site.
Evidently, this issue leads to limited traffic on that particular website which can bring down its conversion. So browser compatibility is among the prime aspects to cater to while a website is in the development phase.
Moreover, having a cross-browser-compatible website ensures you’re providing a consistent and optimal user experience across different browsers.
Users should be able to access and interact with a website or web application regardless of the browser they prefer. Inconsistent rendering or functionality leads to frustration, confusion, and a negative impression of the website or app.
From a financial POV, browser compatibility issues will have a direct impact on the success of your website or web application. If the site is not compatible with your prospects’ browsers, you’ll have to deal with higher bounce rates, reduced user engagement, and lower conversion rates.
Users may also perceive a lack of professionalism or attention to detail if they encounter issues while accessing your website or using an application.
In short, browser compatibility provides a pleasant user experience, reaches a broader audience, achieves business objectives, and helps maintain your brand reputation. All these are benefits you don’t want to miss out on in this competitive landscape.
How can you ensure browser compatibility?
To make sure your website is compatible with different browsers, you (or your developers) need to follow a systematic process of addressing potential issues and providing a consistent user experience across different browsers.
Writing clean and well-structured code enhances compatibility across browsers by reducing the chances of rendering or functionality issues.
Besides these specific guidelines when writing the code, it’s also crucial you regularly deploy cross-browser testing. These browser tests allow you to identify compatibility issues specific to each browser.
For cross-browser testing, you must test for popular browsers such as Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, and Microsoft Edge to ensure wide coverage.
Browser compatibility testing isn’t the only test you have to conduct to ensure your website (or app) functions smoothly cross-browsers. Meaning you also need to consider your website’s features for compatibility testing.
To accommodate users of older browsers or ones with limited capabilities, you could implement strategies like graceful degradation or progressive enhancement.
This means starting with a solid core experience that passes your cross-browser compatibility testing for less capable browsers. This experience can be gradually enhanced with additional features for modern browsers.
This way, you will provide a usable and more enjoyable experience for a broader range of users.
By following this process, you can increase the chances of achieving website compatibility, providing a seamless user experience, expanding your reach, and maintaining a positive brand image.
Best Practices for Improved Browser Compatibility
Besides the ideas from the previous paragraph, there are a few additional steps you can take to ensure browser compatibility for your website and avoid losing potential customers due to technical reasons. Some of the best practices in the field include:
- Using a CSS reset or normalize.css
CSS resets or normalization libraries like normalize.css help in establishing a consistent baseline across different browsers.
This way, you’re ensuring that default styles are reset or normalized and reducing inconsistencies with improved cross-browser rendering.
- Optimize images and media
Make sure you always properly optimize and compress images. This leads to faster loading times and better cross-browser performance.
Additionally, you should consider using responsive images and appropriate formats (such as WebP or JPEG XR) supported by a wide range of browsers.
- Test with real devices
Apart from using browser testing tools to test on different browsers, you should also test your site on real devices (both including smartphones and desktops.)
This helps uncover device-specific issues and ensures a seamless experience for mobile users.
- Cross-browser compatibility libraries
Cross-browser compatibility libraries such as Autoprefixer or CanIUse handle browser-specific CSS prefixes or detect feature support. These libraries automate the process of ensuring compatibility across different browser versions.
- Document known issues and workarounds
Maintain a documentation or knowledge base that lists any known compatibility issues and their corresponding workarounds or fixes.
This helps the development team and future maintainers in addressing specific browser quirks efficiently.
- Keep design and functionality simple
Complex designs or intricate functionality may increase the likelihood of compatibility issues.
Strive for simplicity and maintain a good balance between aesthetics and cross-browser support.
Frequently Asked Questions about Browser Compatibility
You can use online tools to check browser compatibility. The most common and highly reviewed tools for compatibility checking are BrowserStack, Browserling, IE NetRenderer, Browser Sandbox, or TestingBot.
You could also use cross-browser testing services (such as LambdaTest), which allow you to test your website or web application across different browsers and versions.
These tools provide a virtual environment where you can see how your site appears and functions in various browsers, helping you identify compatibility issues.
You can also use feature detection or progressive enhancement techniques to provide alternative functionality or styles for unsupported browsers.
Testing your site thoroughly across different browsers and versions is crucial for identifying specific issues and applying targeted fixes.
Browser compatibility problems happen when your website or App doesn’t display or function correctly across different web browsers or versions.