Web Design Basics Website Usability 4 Great Cross-Browser Testing Tools

4 Great Cross-Browser Testing Tools

Larry Website Usability Jan 28, 2015

Cross-browser testing is a critical step to take before a website goes live. Those who neglect this process risk high bounce rates, since some users might be unable to view or even navigate your web presence.

Cross-browser testing ensures the greatest amount of accessibility and visibility, giving viewers a positive experience across many popular browsers. You don't even need to install multiple browsers to conduct testing. There are many services that virtualize cross-browser testing in batches, so that you can quickly learn about the user experience as displayed by multiple browsers at once. The following list includes free and freemium tools that you can use to ensure greater browser compatibility.


cross-browser tools

This whimsically designed web app gives you live, interactive access to various browser sessions that are run on virtual machines, giving you an authentic look at a website on Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Opera, and Safari.

While users are welcome to try this service without paying, the free plan only gives you access to Internet Explorer 9 for three minutes at a time. If you're serious about testing out your websites for browser compatibility, then the developer plan costs $19 a month, giving you access to all the available browser options for unlimited sessions.

You can also test out different screen resolutions to get an idea of what users will see while using various devices and monitors. Browserling relies on HTML 5 to display content, so that you don't need to install plug-ins to view anything.

Sauce Labs

cross-browser tools

This is another virtual machine tester that gives you access to over 400 browser and operating system views, including mobile systems.

In order to protect your privacy, Sauce Labs immediately terminates your virtual machine session once you're done testing a website. Users can try out the manual cross-browser testing tool for free over two weeks. However, paid users get access to a wide range of perks, including unlimited browser and OS combinations, debugging tools, secure local tunneling, enterprise security, and screenshots. The screenshot option can be particularly useful for designers and developers who need to work with clients to address compatibility issues.

Sauce Labs' paid plans also support concurrent virtual machines, so that your team can test multiple websites with different browser and operating system configurations at once. You can run a manual test for free at the Sauce Labs website, so that you can get a feel for this browser and operating system testing tool.


cross-browser tools

This testing tool takes a departure from virtualization reliance, driven instead by cloud computing. BrowserStack supports testing across 700 different browser and operating system combinations, including mobile platforms. This beefy web utility counts Microsoft, Bose, Citrix, and Github amongst its 25,000 international customers.

The automated tests on BrowserStack support an exhaustive list of programming languages, including Ruby, Python, C#, Perl, and Java. There are three service options provided by BrowserStack: live testing, automated testing, and screenshot / responsive. This allows you to select the services your company actually needs, rather than subscribing to extraneous bundled features.

Each service plan comes with five different subscription tiers, so that you can scale your BrowserStack services to the appropriate amount of users and needed sessions. Solo users who just want to test out their website on popular desktop browsers and operating systems might find that the Lite plan fits their needs.

The Responsive Design Testing preview is particularly fun to play with. Just type a URL into the view field, and you'll be able to shuffle through a variety of mobile device views, with realistic view port sizes and device frames appearing on screen. You can even rotate between portrait and landscape modes, to check a website's reflowability.

Browser Shots

cross-browser tools

While screen shots don't give you the option to interact with your web content, they can provide you with a good visual gauge of how your web design looks on a variety of browsers and operating systems. Browser Shots delivers screen shots of your website within moments, allowing you to select a broad range of popular and obscure browsers from a check list. You can elect to test a website based on OS. Browser Shots also allows you to enable or disable elements such as Javascript, Java, and Flash or define color depth and screen size parameters.

Basic use of Browser Shots is free and open-source, however you will need to create a user account if you're trying to get screenshots of popular, high-traffic websites. Once you request screen shots, Browser Shots will add your request to a queue. Depending on your place in line, it can take several minutes for your results to generate. If you're tired of waiting, Browser Shots does offer a priority processing membership, so that your screenshots are delivered within 2 - 5 minutes.

Another interesting feature of Browser Shots is the free catalog of web design ratings. Popular website screenshots are attributed a star rating, with the maximum score being 5. Ratings are crowd-sourced from Browser Shots user votes. This can be a great resource for web designers to explore as they seek new website inspiration. It's also fun to explore website screenshots with the lowest star ratings, so that you can learn which elements don't work well across multiple browsers.

Is your website compatible with most browsers? Don't alienate your audience. Start using a cross-browser testing tool to create a better user experience for everyone.

P.S.: Do share more cross-browser testing tools in the comments below! I know there are tons of them available, why do you prefer some over others?


Larry Alton

Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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