Browser Compatibility Testing Guide: The Best Tools And Services To Check How Others See Your Web Site
How does your web site look when seen with a different browser, operating system, or at a different screen resolution? Do you know that the layout, margins, font display and other visual characteristics of your web site may change drastically when viewed on a different browser, operating system, or screen resolution than the one you have on your own computer?
Photo credit: tombaky
In the effort to make your site look more credible, trustable and "professional", you may have been asking yourself what's the best way to do such browser compatibility testing analysis, beyond installing multiple browsers, having multiple PCs and Macs and joggling your monitor screen settings hundreds of times.
And, indeed, there is a better way: browser compatibility testing tools are a set of tools and web-based services that you can leverage to test, check and verify how any web page of your web site is going to look when viewed on a different computer / browser / operating system / screen resolution.
In this MasterNewMedia guide you can find the very best tools and services to check how others really see your web site.
When it comes to browser compatibility testing there are at least three main factors that may affect how others see your web site on their computers:
- Web browser: The type of web browser your viewers use (Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari, etc,) and also the specific version they have installed (Internet Explorer 6 is way different than Internet Explorer 7).
- Operating system: The operating system (Mac, Windows, Linux) your viewers have installed on their machines (Firefox on Mac renders a web page differently than Firefox on Windows).
- Screen resolution: The screen resolution (800x600, 1024x768, 1280x800, etc.) your viewers have set on their monitors.
Just by mixing the different options available on these three basic variables should help you realize how many possible different configurations your viewers may have.
But how can you test such a broad variety of possible combinations? Install all the available web browsers and operating systems out there and then test each screen resolution your monitor can handle?
No way. The sheer number of possible combinations you need to test go well beyond the imaginable: 15 basic setups tested at least at three different resolutions are scary enough to become your worst nightmare.
Luckily, this is exactly where browser compatibility testing tools come to rescue. These are a handful of tools (either free or reasonably-priced) you can use to check the compatibility of your site across different web browsers, operating systems and screen resolutions.
How do these tools and services work?
Browser compatibility testing tools generally work all in the same way. You need to provide the URL of the web page you want to check and then select the operating systems, web browsers, and the specific screen resolutions you want to test your page on.
Your selected browser compatibility testing tool will generate a screenshot of that very page from a virtual computer set up according to your specified settings (operating system, web browser type and version, etc.). In this way, you can immediately evaluate what are the key layout issues to be addressed.
Here below is a comparative table and a set of individual mini reviews to help you evaluate all of these browser compatibility testing services. Here the selection criteria used to compare them:
- Operating systems supported: The operating systems that can be used to test your web site pages (e.g.: Mac, Windows XP / Vista, Linux, etc.).
- Web browsers supported: The brand and versions of Web browsers available that can be utilized for your compatibility tests (Firefox, IE, Safari, Chrome, etc.).
- Screen resolution testing: The specific screen resolutions you can utilize to check the look of your web site layout on different screen setups (800x600, 1024x768, 1280x900, etc.).
- Unique features: Key characteristics that distinguish each browser compatibility testing tool.
- Free trial: Evaluation period offered to try the browser compatibility testing tool.
- Price: Cost of the browser compatibility testing tool.
Browser Compatibility Testing Tools - Comparative Table
Browser Compatibility Testing Tools
BrowserCam is a browser compatibility testing tool that allows you to check how your web site is displayed using different browsers and operating systems. The service works on all major web browser running on Windows, Os X, and Linux Fedora Core 6. Also, minor web browsers like Konqueror, Camino or Netscape are supported. Testing of different screen resolutions (640x480, 800x600, 1024x768 and 1280x800) is allowed. Browsercam can also test how your pages are rendered on mobile operating systems like Os X Mobile, Android or Windows Mobile. Browsercam is priced at $19.95 for one day of use, but there are also additional pricing solutions if you need to use the service for a longer time. Free to try for 24 hours and 200 screen captures.
Litmus is a browser compatibility testing tool that allows you to compare the rendering of your web site across different browsers and operating systems. All major browsers on Windows and Os X are supported. As a unique feature, the service allows you to test the layout of your online newsletter to see how it looks across all major e-mail clients. Litmus offers no trial period nor the possibility to test your site at different screen resolutions. Litmus is priced at $39 for 14 days of use. The service has also a Basic (free) version that lets you run compatibility tests on Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 2 with 50 screen captures.
BrowsrCamp is a browser compatibility testing tool designed for Os X-based web browsers. BrowsrCamp can test all major web browsers on Mac and also less-known alternatives like Sunrise, Demeter or iCab. The service supports screen resolution testing up to 1600x1200. Starting at $3 for two days of use, BrowsrCamp offers additional pricing solutions for longer testing periods. Free testing is available for Safari 3.12 only.
- Adobe BrowserLab
Adobe BrowserLab is a free cross-browser compatibility testing tool that allows you to make a side-by-side comparison of how your web site is rendered on different web browsers and operating systems. Still at a beta stage, the service works with Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Chrome on either Windows and Os X. Screen resolution testing is not supported.
- Ie NetRenderer
IE NetRenderer is a free browser compatibility testing service you can use to compare how your web site is rendered across different versions of Internet Explorer (from 5.5 to 8). Screen resolution testing is not allowed. Unique feature of IE NetRenderer is the option to compare at a first glance any difference in the way your web site is rendered on Internet Explorer 6 and 7.
Multi-Safari is a free browser compatibility testing tool that allows you to check the rendering of your web site using different versions of Safari, the default web browser of Os X. You can test Safari versions from Os X 10.2 up to 10.5. Multi-Safari does not allow screen resolution testing. The service is available either in English and French.
- Browser Photo
Browser Photo is a browser compatibility testing solution that tests your web site across different web browsers and operating systems. Browser Photo works with all main browsers on the market (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, Opera) on either Windows, Os X and Linux. the service can also test your web site at two different screen resolutions: 800x600 and 1024x768. Browser Photo is priced at $15 for a one-time use. No trial period is available.
- Multi-Browser Viewer
Multi-Browser Viewer is a cross-browser testing tool that allows you to check the compatibility of your web site across different web browsers and operating systems. The tool tests all major web browser on the three main operating systems (Windows, Os X and Ubuntu Linux), and also less-known alternative web browsers like Epiphany, Konqueror o SeaMonkey. No screen resolution testing is available. Multi-Browser Viewer also lets you validate and auto-correct the HTML code of your web site to resolve compatibility issues. No screen resolution testing is available. Multi-Browser Viewer is priced at $24.95 for a one-time license. Free trial testing is available for 14 days.
BrowserSeal is a browser compatibility testing tool you can use to discover any compatibility issue of your web site across major Windows-based web browsers (Internet Explorer, Firefox and Safari). Screen resolution testing is not available. BrowserSeal is priced at $28 for a one-time license and you can test the service for free on Firefox using three screen captures.
Originally prepared by Daniele Bazzano for MasterNewMedia, and first published on November 23rd, 2009 as "Browser Compatibility Testing Guide: The Best Tools And Services To Check How Others See Your Web Site".
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