Testing Your Site in Multiple Browsers

By now you should know to test your site in more than one browser, so you can be sure that it works for as wide a range of people as possible. The question is: What’s the easiest way to do that?

First, make a list of the browsers to test in. Depending on your audience, you may have to support earlier browsers than others. You absolutely must test in several of today’s major browsers. That means test in

  • Firefox
  • Internet Explorer 7
  • Opera
  • Safari

As well as current browsers, you should also test in some older browsers, like the following:

  • Internet Explorer 6
  • Internet Explorer 5
  • Internet Explorer 4 (possibly)
  • Netscape 6

You need not test in current Netscape versions (yes, it’s still around) as it’s pretty much the same as Firefox (both use the Gecko rendering engine).

Once you’ve compiled your “List O’ Browsers”, download and install them. You’ll have no problem doing this with current browsers, like Firefox and Safari (which is now available for Windows). However, you cannot just install old versions of Internet Explorer. It won’t work.

To run IE4-6 alongside IE7, you need standalone versions. Standalones are basically modified versions of the browsers that have been tweaked to run without installation. You just open-up the directory they’re in and click the .exe icon. They can be buggy, but they’re suitable for testing purposes. Browsers.Evolt.com has archived versions of many (read: a huge amount) of browsers, including standalone versions. The IE Standalones are available on this page.

Once you have all the browsers downloaded, create a new directory (or “Folder”) called “Browsers” on your Desktop. Place the Standalone Browsers’ folders in the “Browsers”directory, along with shortcuts to the other browsers you installed (e.g. Opera, Safari). Now you have a place where you can go to test-out your web pages.

  • http://www.blogsolid.com Imar

    I deleted my Windows version of Safari last night. It kept crashing. Apparently the rendering differs between PC and Mac anyway, so, if you want to be thorough, don’t forget to test on both mac and PC :)
    There’s been so much talk about designers boycotting IE6 that I doubt many people still test their sites on 4 and 5?

  • http://www.webmaster-source.com Matt

    I don’t have a Mac…yet. :D

    Yes, everyone hates IE6 (except for the 34.5% of web users, as of October, who still use it). I don’t think it’s quite time to drop IE6, as IE7 has only been out for a couple of years. It’s best to wait about 5 years before dropping a browser…because too many clueless users don’t upgrade. They think “it works” and leave it. Though maybe they’d upgrade if it stopped working (i.e. dropping support). IE5 is at 1.5%, so it’s probably about time to drop support.

    Hmmm… IE5 came pre-installed with the version of Windows before XP. That was like eight years ago! Does anyone’s computer actually last that long?

  • http://blogs.howtogeek.com/jatecblog Jake

    Looking at your target audience is key. My blog is Linux related, so I get a good number of hits from Konqueror, which may not be as common in other parts of the web. (usually 0.3 to 0.7%)

  • http://www.fam5.com Jeff B

    There must be a website that you could put your URL in and it shows screen shots of what it looks like in the various browsers.

    Any one run into this?

  • http://www.webmaster-source.com Matt

    Jeff, there is a site. It’s browsershots.com. Personally I prefer to use a real browser and interact with the actual page. You can find errors that way that you may not with a screenshot.

    Jake, Konqueror is a minority on all of my websites. I check it with browsershots.com sometimes, but generally it’s similar enough to other browsers that I needn’t bother.