Which browser for web testing? – My thoughts

When discussing browsers in relation to testing a web application there are two main things to consider,

Choosing a browser that complements my ability to test well

This can be things such as useful tools or plugins, or how good or easy to use the developer tools are

Considering the browser choice of our target audience

The platform market share is normally a good place to start for this one, but this could also depend on the demographics of your users or type of application

Check out this link for the latest stats

In this post, I’ll be going over the three most popular browsers and giving my thoughts.

 

Mozilla Firefox – The Flexible One 

Historically the most flexible and customizable (although Chrome has probably caught up). A popular choice in the software industry due to a large number of plugins and add-ons. Firefox also contains probably the most popular debugging tool; Firebug. It’s extremely helpful at locating elements as well as various other excellent features

Another neat feature is that the network settings such as proxy and DNS setting are not tied to the operating system (on Windows). as a result, making changes won’t impact any other application that uses the internet. This can be absolutely great when using proxies or tools such as Fiddler or Postman. I found this extreme,y helpful in an organization where they forced a DNS refresh every 20 minutes. In that case, I needed a specific DNS address for testing.

Google Chrome – The Prevalent One 

Google Chrome is quickly becoming the standard. I feel it is also quickly catching up with Firefox in relation to the availability of useful plugins. This is the browser I use myself and find I only switch over to Firefox when I want to use an operating system independent proxy setting. Or if I really need to pinpoint an element using Firebug

Chrome is currently the market leader by a very long way, so often when using Chrome to test, you have already verified against your biggest user base.

 

Internet Explorer – The Laughing Stock   

It is extremely unlikely that you will find someone working in software who uses IE unless they have been forced to. I do believe IE has add-ons similar to the plugins you can get from either firefox or chrome, but if I’m being honest I have not invested enough time in looking into IE to even know.

There are still many people who still use IE. I can count many times I have personally been caught out because a new UI component did not even load on any version of IE. Speaking of versions, if the application you are testing does not support a particular version of IE, I would suggest checking that any new components do not load; again something that I have personally been caught out on. If the site your testing works on a version of IE that is not supposed to then you will have massive security risks

Read my post on testing older versions of Internet Explorer

 

Forgettable mentions

Safari

I find it mostly unusable, and I’m a Mac user

Opera

Was popular on mobiles for awhile, but again not widely used

 

Conclusion

Ultimately it boils down to the browser you are most comfortable with which will allow you to be the most effective in your testing efforts. Having said that I also feel it is vitally important to be more than familiar with all the major browsers. Just because a user uses IE, doesn’t mean they should experience an untested product.

Being able to use each browser for its strengths is key.

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