Are you turning away customers just because your website is not compatible? Though compatibility is one of the biggest challenges in website creation, it is also one of the most overlooked. So, how do you find whether your website is compatible or not?

To begin with, let us first be clear about what website compatibility actually means. The term compatibility can be defined as ‘the capability of existing in harmonious combination’. That means if your website is compatible, its web pages (along with all the functionality and features) should work well across various customer usage platforms, which may further belong to different categories.

If your website is compatible, it should render or look equally well on –

a) Different Web Browsers
[Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Chrome, Safari, Netscape etc.]

b) Different Operating Systems
[Windows, Macintosh, Linux etc.]

c) Different Monitor or Screen Resolutions
[1024*768, 1280*800, 1280*1024, 800*600 etc.]

For instance, your website may render well in Internet Explorer 7, but how does it look like in Firefox 2.0 or Opera 9? How does your site render in Safari on a Mac? There is an enormous number of browsing platforms available out there. Whether these are different browsers, OSs or screen resolutions, webmasters and web developers need to make sure that their web pages look well on platforms their target audience is using or those that are most popular. The only way to make sure that your website renders well on a specific platform is to test your website on that platform.

Why is a Compatibility Test Important?
Due to the existence of a large number of browsing platforms (with newer versions being frequently launched to enhance user experience), site compatibility becomes a favorite issue with web designers and developers. It is crucial to ensure that all the functionality and features of your website look equally well to all of your users. A compatibility test helps you identify log script errors (which can result in loss of functionality) and find various types of visual discrepancies that can turn your customers away.

Find Out What Your Customers are Using
It may be quite cumbersome to check your site’s compatibility on every single browser, OS and screen resolution that exists today. Before you begin with a compatibility test, it is advisable to have an insightful view of your target audience usage preferences.

The best way to find out what your customers are actually using is to analyze your site’s analytics. If you already have an analytics package installed, it will be easy for you to know these usage specifications. For example, your site’s Google analytics data can provide you a valuable insight into your customer’s usage share.

If you have the Google Analytics code installed on your site, follow these steps.

a) Log into your analytics account
b) Go to ‘Visitors’
c) Go to ‘Browser Capabilities’

Under the ‘Browser Capabilities’ section, you can check the ‘browsers’, ‘operating systems’, and the ‘screen resolutions’ your customers are using. Analyze this data to effectively plan out your website’s compatibility test.

In case you don’t have an analytics package or the Google analytics code installed on your website, you have several sites as well to help you monitor your customers’ usage of browsers, OSs and screen resolutions.

Some of the most useful and popular sites that can provide you valuable usage share statistics include MarketShare, W3Counter and StatCounter.

Get Prepared for the Test
So you are done examining your site’s analytics data, right? Now, it is time to initiate the test. It’s good practice to plan out a specific schedule to test your website’s compatibility (it’s recommended to schedule the test every three or six months). Prepare a list of what you actually want to test; select specific browsers, OSs and screen resolutions.

Considering the enormous number of browsers and different platforms, it may be very time-consuming for an average webmaster to test websites on each of the browsers and operating systems. If you are not privileged to have several computers, you have various (free and paid) online services that can help you test your website for compatibility. Some easy-to-use testing services include BrowserShots, Netrenderer, CrossBrowserTesting, BrowsrCamp and Browsera.

Are You Ready?
Do not underestimate the potential of a website compatibility test. Analyze your site’s analytics and find out what browsers/ OSs and screen resolutions your customers are using. After all, you would never want to turn away customers due to site incompatibility issues. Let your website look good to all your users! Also feel free to share your feedback, comments and experiences that you faced while testing your website’s compatibility.