Published On: Wed, Jun 7th, 2023

How to Practice Better Cross-Platform Testing

If you want to make sure your app or website works properly on a wide variety of devices, browsers, and operating systems, it’s important to practice cross-platform testing. But how exactly does cross-platform testing work and what steps can you take to make sure your testing provides you with the right actionable information?

photo/ Steve Buissinne

What Is Cross-Platform Testing?

For each software platform, app, or website, there’s a list of supported devices, browsers, and operating systems (OS’s). These are platforms on which the app is assured to work properly. If you use a device, browser, or operating system outside of these approved platforms, you may have a less favorable experience, resulting in bugs, vulnerabilities, or other issues.

Cross-platform testing is done internally, by software developers and their colleagues, to ensure that intended supportive platforms are actually supportive. It’s a way of testing the app across a wide range of different environments, so developers can flag potential issues and resolve them before making a release.

Ideally, your app will be functional on all of the most common platforms. Testing for more platform compatibility is more time-consuming and more expensive, but it also introduces you to a wider user base and minimizes the potential for issues to arise.

Why Cross-Platform Testing Is So Important

These are some of the most important reasons to practice effective cross-platform testing:

  •       Providing consistent user experiences. If you want your app to be successful, you need to provide consistent user experiences, regardless of what types of hardware or software your users are using to access that app. Only through cross-platform testing can you reliably assure this.
  •       Accounting for different types of users. Different types of users have different preferences. Not everyone uses the same type of computer, operating system, device, or browser; if you’re going to serve a diversity of different people, you need to account for those different types of individual users.
  •       Preventing bugs and security vulnerabilities. This is also a critical opportunity to identify bugs and security vulnerabilities before they have an impact on users directly. The more platforms you test on, the more information you’ll gather – and the better your finished product will be.
  •       Improving your brand reputation. Superior cross-platform testing can also help you improve your brand reputation. As users encounter fewer bugs and have better experiences, they’ll come to trust and respect your brand more.

How to Practice Better Cross-Platform Testing

So what steps can you take to practice better cross-platform testing?

  •       Document a thorough cross-platform testing policy. Everything in your cross-platform testing policy needs to be formally documented. Explain the purpose of this testing, the correct process for this testing, and the standards by which you will evaluate the employees doing the testing. Use it as a training and education document, as well as a resource that your testers can consult at their leisure.
  •       Create a list of platforms to test on. Create an exhaustive list of all the platforms you want your apps to work on. Before you commit to any launch, the most recent version of your app needs to work correctly on all of them.
  •       Hire the right people (and train them well). You’re going to be heavily reliant on the people doing the testing (though as we’ll see, you’ll be using significant automation as well). Make sure you hire the right people and train them properly. If your employees are serious about cross-platform testing, if they’ve been educated thoroughly, and if they have access to the right resources, they should be in a much better position to flag potential issues and ensure compatibility.
  •       Automate whatever you can. Testing automation is a cross-platform tester’s best friend. It’s a way to remove some of the tediousness of these efforts, while reducing costs and improving consistency at the same time. With the right tool, you can automate playing through the same scenario over and over, across a variety of different platforms – and you can even automatically flag certain types of issues.
  •       Prioritize core functionality. When practicing cross-platform testing, always prioritize core functionality. It’s almost impossible to create any kind of sophisticated app or website with zero discernible bugs; but you can eliminate bugs in the most commonly used features. Replicate the most common user experiences you anticipate, and use them as the foundation of your testing.
  •       Create intelligent testing scenarios. It’s also a good idea to devise some scenarios that push the limits of your app, or replicate situations you think may create bugs or obstacles. In a sense, platform testing is a mission to break your own app; you should be trying actively to produce issues, so you can be confident that no significant issues exist. Collaborate with your team to create these intelligent testing scenarios.
  •       Use emulators and simulators sparingly. Emulators and simulators are designed to reproduce the experience of a specific platform without actually having to access it. In theory, they present excellent shortcuts. But unfortunately, they usually fall flat. Feel free to use these tools, but always back them up with a few rounds of “real” testing on live platforms.

With a better cross-platform testing regimen in place, and the right people overseeing your testing process, your software should have fewer issues and work properly for a greater number of users. 

Testing can be challenging, especially if your app is complicated or if you’re working with a tight deadline, but this is not the place to cut corners.

Author: Anna Johansson

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