In today’s world, full of new gadgets and devices coming every day, the users can access your website or applications from a myriad possibility of devices. There is no limit of platforms which the end users use. While your developer is investing so much of his effort and energy into developing the best solution – be it a website or an app. It is essential that the solution should echo with the usage of real world user who is going to use the system in long run.
If you are developing a mobile application, it can be accessed through mobile devices – cell phones or tablets which come in several screen sizes and a few platforms. Similarly, web applications can be accessed through different browsers, operating systems and screen resolutions.
As a test manager, it is a challenge to deliver a product which has a diverse user community. An application cannot be tested on each and every combination of device – OS or configurations; but, testing on a handful of them will help you identify problems or issues in most of the platforms.
A possible solution would be to try and test your products on a few carefully selected platforms and specifications to make sure you provide best to the audience. Yes, there is still a chance that a few users will be accessing your application from another platform. In such scenario, you can display a user message that convinces them to switch to your selected platform.
In this article, we will understand the importance of cross-platform testing. We will look at the steps that are used to plan for cross-platform testing. We will also discuss common testing issues and a few tips and tricks to perform cross-platform testing. At the end of the discussion, we will list a few testing tools that can facilitate your cross-platform testing.
Why Cross-Platform Testing Is Important
Cross-platform testing is a very important phase of quality assurance. When a product is developed for multiple platforms, the choice of platforms is endless. If we talk about web applications then there are always some new versions available of commonly used browsers, while for desktop applications the combination of OS and configurations is huge; so catering all of them is always out of question.
Cross-platform testing is performed to determine the behavior of your application and website in different environments. Cross-platform testing helps in identifying issues that may vary with platforms or configurations such as consistency, user interface, usability, and performance issues.
For example, the user interface of your website may appear correctly in the Chrome browser, but the layout might be disturbed in the Internet Explorer browser. Similarly, an Android application might run correctly on Nougat, but does not support Kitkat. These types of issues can be identified only when cross-platform testing is done during the testing phase.
How to Plan for Cross-Platform Testing
Cross-platform testing can be tricky to perform if you don’t plan it beforehand. Apart from that, if the requirements for cross-platform functioning are not communicated to the developer and testers clearly, it may lead to product failure as the product might be good for only one platform or configuration.
Let’s have a look at the following points that may help you in devising a plan for cross-platform testing:
Learn About Your Audience
The main principle of testing is to think like an end user and create the use cases which a normal user might follow to perform their actions. You should have good knowledge of who will be the dedicated users of your application and what type of devices and platforms they use most commonly. Get ahold of some statistics to bring everything under control. This will help you in deciding what platforms or devices should be focused on cross-platform testing.
Select Platforms to Support
As soon as you are familiar with the user-base, the next step is to decide which platform to support or how the solution will be implemented, taking in view your user-base. If your user-base indicates that the end users will be from western countries, then the dedicated platform can be the iOS platform.
Limit Your Test
The downside of testing is you get to know a new use case every time you run an application. Usually, it is not feasible to test all possible scenarios- even if it is, it would not be an efficient approach. A more logical approach is to limit your test cases on some factual basis. Investing the time at the right place is the key to success. Identify the platform that you are going to test which covers maximum risk and targets maximum audience. Creating a multi-dimensional matrix with a heat map can be useful in determining things that are high-priority and those which can wait.
Automation as an Option
Testing an application on multiple platforms and combinations proves to be very boring work in the end. Sometimes the testers develop tunnel vision and are unable to find the obvious bugs. At other times, they might lose interest in testing the same thing on different platforms or environments. In such scenarios, automation is desirable. There are many automation tools that allow you to run an application on multiple platforms and save a lot of time. While these automation tools are life-saving, manual intervention is still required because these tools cannot test the usability and accessibility of applications.
Invest in Emulator Software
Purchasing multiple devices and gadgets can be very costly. The best option to perform cross-platform testing on different environments is to use emulators and virtualization. You can create your own virtual machines with various platforms and configuration combinations to test applications. Also, you can use emulators to see the behavior of your application on mobile devices with different screen sizes.
Cross-Platform Testing Issues
When a product is developed for multiple platforms, many challenges are faced during the testing phase. Planning for cross-platform testing is a very important phase of the software testing life cycle, as discussed in the previous section. In this section, we will discuss some common problems faced by testers while performing cross-platform testing:
In an application that is supposed to be run on multiple platforms, it is important that the interface of design is consistent. Such a design should be developed that does not cause any alignment issues or unnecessary text wrapping on UI. Such issues cause a bad impression on the users and interest is lost quickly. For example, the limit of browser usage for an eCommerce website is unlimited. The UI design should be consistent enough so that user interface problems do not occur, like unreadable font size, unnecessary text wrapping and etc.
A GUI with too many buttons is supposed to be complex and unfriendly to the end user. It is very important to know how end users are going to interact with the system and what input type they will prefer to use. Such as in financial applications, the input combination preferred is text boxes, but if the user is provided with dropdowns and buttons this will cause difficulty to application users.
If your application uses a lot of data, then it may cause trouble for devices with low cache and RAM. Keeping in view the device's usability is also important. For example, Android phone users prefer small size applications that don’t occupy much space in their devices.
Fulfilling User Expectations
If an app does not satisfy a user in the first usage, it is most likely that the user dumps the app immediately, so fulfilling your customers’ expectations is very important. For example, if you are developing a financial mobile application, then it should have some type of authentication mechanism, such as thumb print verification.
Tips and Techniques for Cross-Platform Testing
Here is a quick list of tips to perform when cross-platform testing:
Define a Boundary
To avoid any confusion in your testing, it is important to define clear boundaries for cross-platform testing.
A matrix is always helpful when it comes to designing test scenarios. Prepare a test matrix and use it to execute your test cases, and for communication with your end users.
Highlight the elements that are of high risk in the test matrix. A heat map can be helpful to ideally identify risky areas. This helps in proper prioritization when time and resources are limited.
Tools are always helpful in any type of testing. When the testing task is turning out to be repetitive and boring, these tools can be utilized in the best way possible to make your work interesting. Tools save time and effort and also prove to be good in resource and task management.
Choosing The Right Tool
With a huge list of tools available in the market, it is very difficult to decide on any one option. With time, the features are improving more and more, new tools are adding up in the list with new and advanced options. Below mentioned tips may prove to be helpful for you in deciding a good tool that fulfills most of your requirements.
- Search the market and see what options are available.
- Read famous blogs and forums where experts share their experiences and suggest tools on basis of their usage and features.
- Shortlist the top 3 tools that best suit your requirements and affordability.
- Try to come up with a list of features and options according to your need.
- Preparing a comparison chart of 2 or 3 tools will help you in analyzing the features and usability of the tools.
- Try and run at least 2 tools to see if you have come up with the correct options.
Commonly Used Tools for Cross-Platform Testing
Previously, our options were limited; there were very few solutions that fulfilled all the requirements of a user to perform cross-platform testing. However, today we have a lot of options available such that shortlisting a single option for performing cross-platform testing is very difficult. To help you in deciding a good option, we have discussed the top four tools that we think are best for cross-platform:
A cloud-based tool that helps in testing websites on multiple browsers on different operating systems. There is no need for installing VMs or emulators; Browserstack serves the purpose. It is the most widely used cross-platform testing tool. It is a paid tool; a trial version is granted in the beginning for demo use. If you want to use this tool, get registered on its portal and enjoy its amazing features, multiple user support, and much more.
Testize is the tool where the need of skills is zero. This is what the tool’s official website claims. The tool analyzes websites on multiple browsers in different environments according to internet standards. It also helps in identifying issues in performance, site rendering, compatibility, or mobile readiness. The tool is famous among design studios, web developers, site owners, etc.
Test Plant Cross-Browser Testing
Test Plant is an international business with expertise in developing automation tools. Their cross-browser testing automation tool is also in our "best tools" list. The tools with additional automation features perform cross-platform tests across all famous browsers in different environments and operating systems. It is a paid tool, while a free trial version is available for initial demos. This is a great tool to rely on for cross-platform testing purposes.
Browsershots has the privilege of being the only free open source tool on our list. The tool creates screenshots of your website being run on different browsers. It is easily available online and the most convenient tool to test your website compatibility in a single go. The screenshots this tool takes are real and rendered from real browsers on different operating systems.
Don’t forget to share with us tips and techniques to perform cross-platform testing, if you have any.