Tech

Overcoming Cross-Browser Testing Challenges In Agile Development

Agile development has become the standard methodology for software development, promoting collaboration, flexibility, and continuous delivery. However, the rapid pace of Agile can sometimes clash with the intricate process of cross-browser testing, which ensures that web applications function seamlessly across various browsers and devices.

In this article, we will explore the challenges associated with cross-browser testing in Agile development and discuss strategies to overcome them.

What is Cross-Browser Testing?

Cross-browser testing means testing a website or web application across different web browsers. The goal is to ensure the site works properly and displays correctly in all the major browsers, like Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.

This is important because each browser slightly differs in how they interpret code and display pages. For example, one browser may support a specific CSS feature that another does not. Or pages may load faster in some browsers versus others.

As a developer, you don’t know which browser your users will be viewing your site on. They could be on an older version of Internet Explorer or the latest version of Chrome. By testing across browsers, you can identify and fix compatibility issues to ensure a consistent experience.

Cross-browser testing also involves checking that your site works on different operating systems like Windows, Mac OS, iOS, Android, etc. And testing on different screen resolutions is essential to accommodate mobile and desktop users.

Challenges in Cross-Browser Testing in Agile Development

Here are some common challenges in cross-browser testing in agile development:

Rapid Release Cycles

Agile development practices emphasize releasing new software versions frequently, sometimes even multiple times per week. This poses a significant challenge for cross-browser testing efforts. With such rapid iterations, there is limited time available between releases to thoroughly test across the multitude of browsers and devices in the market.

To keep pace, testing teams must constantly realign their test plans and test cases to account for the frequent changes flowing downstream from development. However, compressing rigorous cross-browser testing into short iterative sprints strains resources and often forces compromises in coverage. Critical browser compatibility issues can slip through the cracks.

Organizations adopting agile development must allocate sufficient time for cross-browser testing within each sprint to enable comprehensive testing. The velocity cannot be so rapid that it undermines the ability to catch browser-related defects.

Diverse Browser Ecosystem

The wide range of browsers and exponential version growth creates an ecosystem of enormous diversity. Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge – not to mention less common browsers each have their own rendering engines, capabilities, and quirks. What displays correctly in one may be distorted in another. Building a test suite to cover the permutations requires significant investment. Just testing the current version of the top 5 browsers is inadequate.

A comprehensive test plan must account for the latest and legacy versions still in everyday use, such as Internet Explorer 11. With limited resources, testing teams struggle to gain sufficient test coverage. Low-priority niche browsers often get excluded from regular testing. Automated testing tools with extensive browser offerings are invaluable for detecting compatibility defects efficiently.

Responsive Design and Multiple Devices

Responsive web design enables applications to dynamically adapt to any screen size. But with a myriad of desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones in use today, accounting for all possible display variations is an arduous undertaking. Testing must address different viewport dimensions, resolutions, and pixel densities across devices. Features like touch screens and different input modes like voice add further complexity.

Emulators and real mobile devices are necessary for reliable testing. However, managing a comprehensive set of physical devices is expensive. Therefore, teams must selectively choose representative devices based on their market share and capabilities. But there is no guarantee that all edge cases will get covered.

Users may still encounter display or compatibility issues on less popular devices. While responsive design empowered greater accessibility, it also made cross-browser testing far more challenging in the multi-device era.

Automation Implementation

Implementing effective test automation for cross-browser testing presents steep challenges for agile teams. While automation is invaluable for accelerating testing across multiple browsers, developing and maintaining robust, browser-agnostic scripts demands substantial upfront investment and ongoing maintenance.

Even slight differences in the DOM or CSS can lead to locators breaking. Keeping pace with the rapid evolution of web technologies also often necessitates updating scripts, which takes time away from new feature testing. With condensed agile sprints, these scripting overheads make it challenging to quickly achieve extensive automation coverage across browsers.

However, the complexity of cross-browser test automation should not be underestimated. It requires strategic planning and architecting automation frameworks resilient to frequent changes. Automation in itself does not guarantee accelerated execution if not thoughtfully designed and implemented.

Resource Allocation

With compressed agile sprints, allocating adequate resources for cross-browser testing is an ongoing struggle. Functional validation often takes priority, leaving browser testing understaffed and underfunded.

However, neglecting comprehensive cross-browser validation can lead to defects escaping to production. The technical debt will accumulate, requiring correction in future releases. Pitching additional resources is difficult when teams are pressured to deliver features quickly.

Conveying the value of cross-browser testing and having metrics to demonstrate that value is vital. Analytics on browser usage and past defects justified by lack of testing can help secure resources. Advocating for shifting left on compatibility testing is also important. Flagging browser issues earlier reduce downstream costs.

Limited Testing Environments

While thorough cross-browser testing requires assessing code across countless permutations of browsers, devices, and resolutions, replicated test environments will always be limited. Budget and timeline constraints prevent covering every minor browser and OS version.

Low-priority niche browsers often get excluded. But even focused test environments struggle to represent the diversity of configurations in the real world. Users may access systems in ways unpredictable to testers, leading to undiscovered defects.

For example, an old browser plugin may cause compatibility issues unseen previously. While virtual machines and cloud services now make diverse test environments more achievable, replicating the vast spectrum of user conditions remains challenging.

Strategies to Overcome Cross-Browser Testing Challenges in Agile

Following are the strategies to overcome cross-browser testing in agile development:

Test Automation Integration

Integrating cross-browser test automation into the development pipeline is critical to keeping pace with agile delivery. Scores can be integrated into builds with each code change to validate new features against crucial browsers. This constant feedback loop surfaces compatibility defects early when fixes are cheaper.

Utilizing browser automation frameworks that simplify running the same tests across multiple browsers saves maintenance effort. Teams should start small with sustainable scripts for high-risk flows and then expand coverage. Getting developers involved in script creation instills shared responsibility for quality.

Automated unit and UI tests complement end-to-end automated browser testing. The combination provides rapid feedback on both functionality and browser compatibility risks. When executed continuously, automated testing enables proactive defect prevention despite compressed delivery cycles.

Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD)

By incorporating cross-browser testing into CI/CD pipelines, validation occurs at every stage from commit to production. Tests can execute on code merges to flag browser issues immediately.

Automated browser tests are then re-run on the packaged application pre-deployment. This bakes browser compatibility checks into the entire delivery chain. Testing early and often in this manner surfaces defects rapidly when fixes are simpler.

CI/CD also facilitates continuous small releases, which minimizes the scope of changes that need to be re-tested. The incremental improvements use pipeline feedback to steer the product in the right direction. With cross-browser testing ingrained in the pipeline, quality, and velocity can coexist even in rapid, agile environments.

Cloud-Based Testing Platforms

Cloud testing services grant access to many real desktop and mobile browsers without infrastructure issues. Teams can leverage these on-demand environments to validate across numerous configurations early in development. Cloud services alleviate the need to procure devices and manage laboratory infrastructure. Testing on real browsers in the cloud better simulates actual user conditions versus local emulators.

Leveraging AI-powered test orchestration and execution tools like LambdaTest to run automation tests with different programming languages and frameworks such as Selenium, Cypress, Playwright, and Puppeteer on an online browser farm of 3000+ real desktop and mobile environments. Teams save time and costs while still achieving extensive test coverage.

As new browser versions are released, they quickly become available for testing without internal setup. For agile teams, cloud services enable focus on delivering features quickly while still facilitating comprehensive cross-browser testing.

Parallel Testing

Executing automated tests in parallel across multiple browsers drastically reduces the time taken for cross-browser validation. Tests can run concurrently on different browsers and devices rather than sequentially.

Setting up the infrastructure for parallel testing requires upfront investment. But the long-term time savings and agility gains make it worthwhile. Careful test design is needed to avoid dependencies that hinder parallelism. With thoughtful implementation, parallel cross-browser testing provides manifold efficiency gains over serial testing.

Cross-Functional Collaboration

Siloed teams often lead to browser compatibility issues spotted late in development. However, promoting collaboration between functions brings diverse perspectives earlier. Developers gain insight into testing challenges for writing robust cross-browser code. Testers understand limitations that lead to defects. UX designers advocate for consistent rendering. Management provides resources to meet testing needs.

Through ongoing communication via meetings, demos, and collaboration tools, collective knowledge improves quality proactively. Teams feel jointly accountable for the end user’s experience. Cross-functional collaboration helps instill shared ownership of compatibility risks and emphasizes identifying issues while code changes are smaller.

Prioritization and Risk-Based Testing

With limited time in agile sprints, prioritizing test coverage is essential. Analytics on site traffic and customer usage patterns help focus test efforts on popular browsers first. New browser versions may need verification based on adoption trends. Prioritizing flows and features that significantly impact users also helps utilize testing time wisely.

Additionally, assessing past compatibility issues guides test focus to high-risk areas. Prioritization provides a structured way to gain the best coverage possible within constrained schedules. However, companies should still establish a minimum set of browsers and scenarios to test every sprint. Adopting a risk-based approach paired with structured prioritization enables smart testing decisions when resources are scarce.

Regular Training and Skill Development

Given the complex and continuously evolving landscape of web browsers, consistent training is crucial for testers. Learning halls and self-paced courses on new browser features, tools, and automation skills should be encouraged.

Attending industry conferences aids awareness of emerging trends. Internal certifications and hackathons foster expertise. Mentoring junior team members through pair testing builds capabilities. Without updating knowledge, testing practices become outdated. Dedicated time for learning new techniques is essential, even within agile sprints.

The expertise gained will equip teams to design more effective test automation and make prudent decisions when prioritizing efforts. Investment in skills uplifts overall team competency for sustainable cross-browser testing.

Conclusion

Cross-browser testing is indispensable yet inherently challenging for Agile teams aiming to release high-quality web applications rapidly. The plethora of diverse browser environments makes exhaustive testing impractical. Strategic balancing of thoroughness and speed is imperative. Integrating robust test automation into development pipelines provides one avenue for efficiency.

Automated scripts running in parallel across browser grids offer accelerated feedback compared to manual sequential testing. However, dedicating resources to script maintenance ensures the long-term viability of the automation approach. Complementing automation with manual exploratory testing and usability studies also brings human insight to the compatibility assessment.

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