Cross-Browser Compatible Website Solutions – Vital for Customer Experience
When building a website for your business, it is important to remember that users will be accessing it using a wide range of web and mobile browsers. These include but are not limited to Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera and Safari. With this in mind, it is essential that you design a website that offers the same user experience across all browsers. Here we will provide a guide to cross-browser compatible website solutions and why they are vital for creating a good customer experience.
Improve the customer experience offered by your website by ensuring it is compatible with the majority of web browsers.
Cross-browser compatibility – the key to a good website design
It does not matter how beautiful your website looks or how well it functions in a particular browser, if the same does not apply to all browsers, your new design will be a complete waste of money. Today people access the internet using a wide range of browsers, so if your website is not compatible with all of them, you risk alienating a large proportion of your target audience.
You will usually find that websites appear and behave differently, depending on the browser they are being viewed in. Sometimes you will even find that key functions of your website do not work in certain browsers, for example if you have built your website with Flash, it will not work in iPhone web browsers. If you want to create a professional looking website that will function across all web browsers, cross-browser testing is absolutely essential.
Not only is it important that you build a website that is compatible with desktop browsers, but mobile browsers too. The number of people using their smartphones to access the internet is increasing every day, so by ensuring your website is compatible for mobile viewing, you stand the best chance of satisfying mobile users and increasing your conversions.
Cross-browser compatibility is the key to good website design. It will allow your website to fulfill its purpose, whilst helping you to satisfy your customers and consequently increase your sales.
Implications of an incompatible website
We cannot stress enough how vital cross-browser compatible website solutions are to creating a great customer experience. If your website is unable to load or perform in certain browsers or users are not able to carry out certain actions, it is going to frustrate them and may result in them clicking off your website and taking their business elsewhere.
If your website doesn’t perform well in certain web browsers it could damage your business’s reputation.
Having a website that does not function well in certain browsers can also damage your reputation. If people are unable to use your website or the customer experience it provides is unsatisfactory, it’s likely they are going to tell other people not to use it either, damaging your reputation. It can be extremely difficult to win customers back after you have disappointed them, so it is best to just avoid doing it in the first place.
Believe it or not, if your website is incompatible with certain browsers it can also have a negative impact on its ability to rank in search engines. This is largely down to the fact that if your website loads slowly in certain browsers or is unable to perform, users are not going to spend long on it, resulting in a higher bounce rate.
A high bounce rate signals to Google and other search engines that your website is not offering users a good experience and is incapable of meeting their needs. This could result in a drop in your rankings, which could also lead to a decrease in traffic. With this in mind for good SEO, it is important to make sure that your website is compatible with as many desktop and mobile browsers as possible.
Testing your websites cross-browser compatibility
Before launching a new website, it is highly recommended that you carry out cross-browser compatibility tests. This will help you to see how your website looks and functions across different desktop and mobile browsers. If any problems arise, you will be able to fix them before launching your website, effectively saving you from disappointing prospective customers.
If you have worked with a professional web designer on your website design, they should carry out cross-browser testing for you. However, we have provided details of what to look for during the tests, so you can get a better understanding of its purpose.
If your site performs well across all browsers you stand the best chance at increasing your conversion rates.
Check site performance
The first thing you will need to test is your website’s performance in different browsers. One option would be to download all of the different browsers to see how your website performs across them, however this can be extremely time consuming. Instead, we highly recommend that you use a program such as Adobe Browser Lab or Browsershots to do the job for you. These programs will produce screenshots showing how your website appears across various different browsers. They will also flag up any compatibility issues affecting your website’s performance so you can make the necessary alterations before launching your website.
Check that your website code meets the requirements of W3’s rules.
During the testing process you will also need to validate your website. This involves running checks to ensure your webpages conform to the standards set by various different organisations.
If your website does not meet their criteria, this could affect how it will appear in certain web browsers, as well as how it will perform in search engines. A great tool for validating your website is W3C’s XHTML Validator.
W3’s set of rules describe how elements of a website should be coded. Stick to their rules for website coding and your website should perform well in the majority of browsers.
Avoid alienating mobile customers by making sure your website is compatible with mobile browsers.
Today website owners also need to test the compatibility of new web designs with mobile browsers. It is important to remember that mobile users interact with websites differently to how desktop users do. For example, rather than using a mouse and keyboard, the majority of people use touch screen to carry out actions on their devices.
During the testing stage, it is important to check that your website is compatible with touch screen control and that elements of its navigation are easy for mobile users to operate.
A great tool for testing your website with mobile browsers is Ghostlab. This tool will allow you to test the entire user experience of your website (including scrolls, clicks, reloads and form input) rather than just how it looks on mobile devices. Using Ghostlab, you will be able to identify issues and ensure they are resolved quickly.
Other great smartphone simulators which can be downloaded and used to test the mobile compatibility of your website include:
These tools all operate slightly differently, however their primary aim is to simulate a smartphone browsing experience and include full support for mobile-centric actions like rotate and zoom.
Responsive web designs can help to improve your chances of greater cross-browser compatibility.
Responsive web design
To avoid running into mobile browser compatibility issues, many web design companies (including Online Media Direct) recommend that businesses build their websites using responsive web design. This involves creating an intuitive web design that responds to the device it is being viewed on. A responsive website will change its screen size and alter it’s functionality in order to optimise itself for viewing on a particular device. The same content and experience will be offered to all users, no matter what device they are using, however the way in which it is presented will be slightly different.
The benefit of investing in a responsive web design is that it will prevent you from alienating members of your target audience who may prefer to browse the internet or shop online using devices other than their PC or laptop. The great thing about offering a responsive web design is that it will offer a consistent and seamless user experience across all devices, so users can technically switch devices mid-browsing and still access the same content and enjoy the same positive user experience.
Pros and cons of cross-browser compatibility testing tools
As we previously mentioned, when it comes to testing your website’s compatibility across different desktop and mobile browsers, you will either have the option to do it manually or automatically using a cross-browser compatibility testing tool.
One of the advantages of using a purpose-built tool for cross-browser compatibility testing is that it will save you a lot of time. Instead of having to create a checklist and manually download all of the browsers yourself, the program will do all of the hard work for you in a much shorter time period.
Another benefit of using a cross-browser compatibility testing tool is that it will behave more consistently across browsers. The program will be set up to treat them all in the exact same way to ensure the results you are provided with are fair and accurate.
However there is a disadvantage of using a cross-browser tool (aside from their cost), which is that they can only do as much as they are built to. This means that they may not be able to uncover flaws in your website that you would be able to find if you carried out the test yourself. This is why many experts recommend a hybrid approach to cross-browser compatibility testing, using a combination of automated tools and human-powered testing methods.
Does a website need to be compatible with all browsers?
The fact that desktop and mobile browsers use different rendering methods and have different requirements make it quite difficult for webmasters to ensure their websites are compatible with every single one. Whilst you should aim to make your website design compatible with as many browsers as possible, there may be some browsers you want to focus on achieving compatibility with more than others. For example, you may want to concentrate on creating your website for the browsers with the highest market share or the browsers that you have found the highest percentage of your target audience to use.
One last thing…
Before we round things off, we just wanted to mention one last thing. It’s something that we recommend you avoid doing at all costs and that is advising visitors to use a particular browser to view your website. By doing this, it is almost like you are trying to cut corners and get users to do the work, rather than you having to do it yourself.
Don’t expect your website visitors to use the same browser you do or be willing to download a new browser just to view your website. Getting information online is supposed to be convenient, so if you are asking users to download a completely new browser just to view your website; this is going to defeat the purpose. In all honesty, web users are not going to download a browser just because you have recommended it, instead they are more than likely to visit one of your competitors (with a more compatible website) instead. Just something to keep in mind!
In an ideal world everyone would use the same browser, but you just have to except that this isn’t the case. People use different desktop and mobile web browsers and because there is a great deal of variation between them (even between different versions of the same browser) cross-browser compatible website testing is an absolute must.
To make the testing process less of an ordeal, we highly recommend that all businesses opt for responsive web designs. By having a responsive website, you stand a much greater chance of it being compatible with all browsers across all devices. You can also make testing much quicker by using one of the many automated tools available.
In order to avoid disappointing potential customers and putting them off purchasing your products or services it is highly recommended that you carry out cross-browser testing before launching a new website. Ensuring your website is compatible with the majority of desktop and mobile browsers will give you the best chance of offering customers a great experience that will in turn improve customer retention and generate high conversion rates.