What is Cross-Browser Compatibility?
Cross-browser compatibility describes the issues and strategies behind making sure that websites and applications look and behave in a consistent manner across as many browsers and platforms as possible.1 With more and more devices, operating systems, and browsers being used to access websites and applications, support for all of these has become a significant challenge for front-end developers. Front-end developers are tasked with ensuring that the website or application performs consistently in various web environments, which they do through cross-browser testing. Front-end developers testing for browser compatibility must consider:
- The many different devices and ages of devices that users may be utilizing
- Users with disabilities who may be accessing the website or application on any of the aforementioned browsers or devices, while also using assistive technology such as screenreaders
- Mouse and no-mouse users
Cross-browser compatibility issues often occur due to the following reasons:
- Browsers have differences, such as implementing features differently, and some browsers have bugs
- Browsers have different levels of support for technology features, with older browsers requiring additional steps to ensure compatibility
- Some devices have constraints which cause web sites or applications to run slowly or display poorly
Cross-browser compatibility is important for your website so that your visitors have a quality user experience and a positive impression of you and your organization. Front-end developers are mindful of the following aspects when developing for cross-browser compatibility:
Up-to-date tech. Front-end developers keep pace with the latest web development technologies, development tools, updates in libraries, and updates in frameworks, ensuring that your website or application has cross-browser compatibility and consistent performance with the latest browsers.
Testing. Front-end developers test websites and applications thoroughly using browser compatibility testing tools to help create a consistent user experience across browsers.
Accessibility. Front-end developers work to ensure that your website is accessible for all by keeping up-to-date on the latest assistive technologies and devices.
Functionality. Front-end developers prioritize functionality, and they do this by considering what website or application functions and features are essential to your audience.
UX. Front-end developers are focused on the user experience (UX), so they take care to understand your audience by understanding their demographics and what types of devices and browsers that they are most likely to be using.
Growth. Front-end developers plan for future cross-browser compatibility issues by implementing strategies that support a basic user experience that will be consistent for all but more advanced for some users (progressive enhancement) or an enhanced user experience for the modern platforms with a degraded experience for older environments (graceful degradation).
Fallbacks. Front-end developers are aware of the fallback behaviors that browsers provide, for situations when browsers do not support certain options.
1 Turing, 2022, “Cross-Browser Compatibility”