12 Ways to Ensure a Consistent Cross‑Browser Compatible Website Experience

Ensuring a consistent website experience irrespective of the device, browser, or system, while viewing a website is vital to any company with a website. The question now becomes, how can we make sure we, the designers and developers, allow for a smooth and consistent experience across these parameters? Well, with a robust and clean coding process you should be able to execute code with minimal cross-compatibility browser issues. Below are 12 well documented and proven steps you can take to ensure a consistent cross-browser experience.

1. CSS Reset

A CSS Reset is a short, often compressed (minified) set of CSS rules that resets the styling of all HTML elements to a consistent baseline. Every browser has its own default settings (stylesheet), but with a CSS Reset, developers can force every browser to have its styles reset to null, thus avoiding cross-browser differences as much as possible.

2. Know Your Audience

Different people use different browsers. And the same is true for groups of people. Do most of your users come through mobile? Desktop? Chrome? Safari? You should find out these specifics via Google Analytics. Test your application on the browsers your users are using. You’re wasting your time otherwise.

3. Create Vendor Specific Markup

CSS vendor prefixes (browser prefixes) allow new CSS features to be added before those features are supported across all browsers.

  • Android: -webkit-
  • Chrome: -webkit-
  • Firefox: -moz-
  • Internet Explorer: -ms-
  • iOS: -webkit-
  • Opera: -o-
  • Safari: -webkit-

The call outs above allow you to pinpoint specific browsers. By coding for browser specific issues you eliminate the worry of targeting a browser you didn’t intend to target.

4. Reuse and Reduce Components 

Managing CSS classes is an endless and thankless job. But adequate management with a CMS like WordPress or a modular, site-wide approach is beneficial in three ways:

  1. It saves time by not having to code similar effects over and over.
  2. By using the same classes in different sections of your site you are affording your site one cohesive look throughout.
  3. You also eliminate unnecessary code callback from the server. Less lines of code means less time for a server to transfer content, and less bandwidth for the end user. It’s a win win.

5. Consider Using a Framework

A framework is a set of predefined rules and code for use provided by a third party. For example, Bootstrap (CSS) and Angular or React (JavaScript) are all frameworks and are available for mass consumption. The authors here, have already taken care of the cross-browser compatibility for you. You get to plug and play, therefore saving you quite possibly hours of coding.

6. Keep the Design Simple

The fewer bleeding-edge design solutions you use on your site, the less difficulty you’ll have with functionality across browsers. By keeping things simple in the design, you keep things simple for the server and end user. Simple, but effective.

7. Check Browser Support of Newer Features

Feature detection is an integral part of determining code compatibility regarding new blocks of code. Many new features aren’t as widely adopted and available as we’d like. Check to see if yours is. And if it’s not, consider not using that functionality.

Cross Browser Compatible

8. Test As You Go

One of the more widely practiced concepts, testing as you go, should be a daily occurrence for anyone working on a pushing a website live. And especially for someone working on something intricate or tricky. You should take an iterative approach to catch issues as they arise.

9. Create Test Scripts

This step may give the designers reading this pause, but this step will prove to be a worthwhile step in the process. With test scripts in place you can be confident that in each test you can define the set of tests you want to run. This allows you to pinpoint exactly what you want while not missing things between runs.

10. Test Difficult Browsers First

For some this may seem counterintuitive, but testing difficult browsers first makes the most sense. In this work structure you take care of the headaches up front. Why get 90% of it fine tuned before discovering a major roadblock?

11. W3C Markup Validation

For some this may seem counterintuitive, but testing difficult browsers first makes the most sense. In this work structure you take care of the headaches up front. Why get 90% of it fine tuned before discovering a major roadblock?

Now that you’ve tested your code to the point of exhaustion, it’s time to for one final test. Markup validation within W3C guidelines isn’t an essential step for your code, but if you decide to test it you will be compensated with code that is guaranteed to work without issue. No weird behaviors. No fingers crossed.

12. Fail Gracefully 

Sometimes it’s impossible to make every feature work within every browser. Sometimes you can, but you have to jump through too many hoops to get it working. It’s just not worth it. That’s where “failing gracefully” comes into play. Failing gracefully involves eliminating the cutting edge designs and instituting a more widely accepted design in its place just for the difficult web browsers. Try turning off Javascript for your site. Is it still functional? Or a complete mess?

Conclusion 

Compatibility issues aren’t going away. Our 5 main browsers are here to stay and so are the issues. There are many smart people working to resolve these issues through standardized coding, frameworks, and processes. Until then, a thorough approach including the 12 steps outlined above will ensure a consistent cross-browser compatible website experience ensuring a user friendly website for all your visitors regardless of the device, browser, or system.