In a perfect world, we’d have all the time needed to test every page on a website we develop on every possible browser and device. But we don’t. Instead, it’s important to approach testing your website with a strong compatibility testing strategy in mind. A clear strategy will help your testers complete the compatibility tests in a way that balances both thoroughness and time.

Test Only Page Templates on All Browsers & Devices

Likely your website is reusing page templates for multiple pages. You may have, for example, one template for your home page, one template for main menu pages, a third for lesser page content and a fourth for blog posts. What the content of the page is rarely affects how that page is actually displayed in the browser.

So, if a page with one type of template works on a certain browser, the likelihood is that other pages with the same template will work as well.

The positive outcome of this type of testing strategy is that you can test pages quickly on a large number of devices, ensuring your site will work properly on all browsers. The countering risk is that there may be individual pages that, for one reason or another, deviate from the template and therefore won’t be caught with this method.

If you have a site that uses a large number of templates each with a small number of individual pages, this strategy will have a much smaller payoff in saved time. However, for a site with a smaller number of templates, each with large numbers of individual pages, it’s a lot less of a risk and may save time.

Test All Pages on Only Priority Browsers & Devices

Another strategy is just to skim-test obscure browsers and devices and concentrate your effort on what the largest portions of your intended audience will be using. After all, it’s probably way more likely for a visitor to your site to be browsing on Google Chrome than on Opera. It’s also unlikely they will be trying to access your page from an iPhone 4 mobile device, so you can limit the number of devices you use in your testing.

This method of compatibility testing will help you save money in terms of both time and testing device cost, but ignoring unusual browsers or devices could also mean you’re alienating potential viewers. Again, determining the devices and browsers your ideal visitor is likely using will be the key to whether this strategy is one that will work well for you.

Test Only Certain Combinations of Pages, Browsers & Devices

A compromise between the two strategies above is to test all pages and all browsers & devices, but not every page on every browser or device. In other words, you will test maybe five pages on one browser, then the next five pages on another, and so on until you’ve made sure every individual element has been tested.

While this testing strategy might not give you perfect accuracy, it will give you a good indication about the general compatibility of your website across all devices. In some cases, this forest over trees approach can actually be a great starter strategy, because it will let you know where to look more deeply for potential problems.

The Importance of Meta-Strategy in Compatibility Testing

Ultimately, whichever strategy you choose for your compatibility testing strategy, you’ll need it to be flexible. Your strategies need to be able to adjust testing priorities as new information arises.

For example, if you notice that a certain page template isn’t working correctly on the Samsung phones you’ve tested, that may mean there’s an underlying problem with your site’s code and Samsung mobile browsers. That would direct you to do more thorough testing on that line of devices. By adjusting your testing strategy to new information as it appears, you’ll be able to perform more thorough compatibility testing faster.