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What is Compatibility Testing?

compatibility testing

Compatibility testing is non-functional testing, which means it focuses on such aspects as the reliability and usability of software applications. Thanks to focusing on the compatibility of the software, you can make sure that your app will work as expected on different hardware and software configurations.

You can say that there’s software compatibility when various modules and components of software work together and exchange information to produce expected results that satisfy the user of the software. In other words, if an app works with other apps, systems, and hardware doing what it was created for, it’s compatible with them.

Software compatibility testing is important, but what is its purpose?

As a part of non-functional software testing, compatibility testing is a method that allows you to check if an application or software works correctly with different software and on various hardware configurations. The goal of compatibility testing is to ensure that there will be no problems when your app runs on a specific device, platform, or together with other apps. An incompatibility issues will result in bugs and problems that you can detect thanks to testing and fix early in the process.

Key objectives of compatibility testing process

  • The key objectives of performing a successful compatibility testing process are:

  • Checking if the software is compatible across various platforms, devices, operating systems, or hardware configurations.

  • Finding problems and fixing them before the software is released.

  • Improving user experience since more users with different configurations can use an app that has good compatibility.

Types of compatibility testing

There are two main kinds of compatibility testing: backward and forward compatibility testing.

Backward compatibility testing

It's when you check if your app works on older hardware or previous versions of operating systems (the latter is often referred to as operating system compatibility).

Forward compatibility testing

It’s the process opposite to that of backward compatibility testing as it consists in ensuring that your app works correctly on new platforms and hardware.

Also, we can distinguish more specific subtypes of compatibility testing like the ones discussed below.

1. Browser compatibility testing

Making sure that your website or web app works correctly on various browsers is highly important given how many browsers there are. It usually involves checking the layout and features on such popular web browsers as Chrome, Edge, Safari, and Firefox.

2. Network compatibility testing

Most apps today use networks and connectivity to function properly. Even if your software doesn’t require an internet connection to run, some features, such as updates may be unavailable if the app isn’t connected to the internet. For this reason, it’s essential to check if your app is compatible with different network configurations and different conditions, for example, low download/upload speeds or latency issues.

3. Device compatibility testing

People will use your app on such devices as phones, tablets, and notebooks. Different devices have different operating systems, hardware configurations, and screens. If you offer your app for many types of devices, it’s vital to make sure that you have dedicated versions of your app that have been thoroughly tested on each platform.

4. Mobile compatibility testing

This kind of compatibility testing concentrates on mobile devices. As mobility is highly important for modern users, you should make it a priority too.

5. Software compatibility testing

Software interactions are not uncommon. For example, two different antivirus applications won’t get along too well. You should check if your software is compatible with other popular apps that people may regularly use.

6. Version compatibility testing

Apps get updated frequently these days. It’s important to know that after an update, all the features of your app will still be working. You’ll need to check, for example, libraries, app components, and other elements that might be affected by updates.

7. Database compatibility testing

As applications often store their data in databases, you’ll have to make sure that your software works well with various databases. The testing focuses on checking how your app handles queries and how it interacts with different databases.

Key components of compatibility testing

Test environment setup

It’s important to make your test environment mimic that of production. To do that, you have to make sure that your hardware, software, and data are identical or at least similar to those used in the production environment.

Test case design and execution

You’ll need to prepare a set of tests to check the compatibility of your software. First of all, you will need to list elements that you’ll have to test. Secondly, you’ll need to establish what the prerequisites for testing are. In other words, you’ll have to determine such conditions as hardware and software configurations. Finally, you’ll prepare the test cases for each defined testing condition. Once you’ve completed these steps, you’re ready for test execution which involves reporting, tracking, and managing the detected bugs as well as retesting and reporting after you’ve finalized the test execution stage.

Test coverage considerations

Determining what test coverage should be is vital as it helps to make sure that you can identify all the compatibility problems and find solutions for them. It involves establishing what the target configuration will be (including hardware and software), specifying the requirements that need to be met, and understanding the software architecture and its implementation (because the way software was designed and implemented may lead to compatibility issues).

Compatibility test automation

You can (and should!) use automation tools that will allow you to create, schedule, and run automated test tasks for you. Such an approach will give you:

  • greater speed of testing since you can have tests running on many platforms at the same time.

  • higher efficiency and accuracy because taking out the human factor allows for consistent and comprehensive execution of test cases.

  • generating savings as not having to rely on manual testers can significantly reduce costs.

Steps to follow if you want to perform compatibility testing

Once you've decided to perform compatibility testing, you can follow these steps:

  1. Determine what the designated platform for your app is.
  2. Get your hands on the required hardware, operating system, and any software related to the designated platform that will be needed for testing your app.
  3. Set up your app and configure it.
  4. Run it on the designated platform and test how the app works.
  5. Find, record, and report any issues with compatibility that you encounter.

Example of compatibility testing

Imagine that a software company has built a Windows app. They will need to find out how their app behaves on different versions of Windows, for example Windows 11 or Windows 10, as well as on Windows computers with different configurations. That’s why they’ll have to test the app for compatibility. Also, the company will need to test the app under various conditions which includes compatibility testing in multiple network configurations or with different amounts of data that the app will have to handle.

Benefits of compatibility testing for QA teams

Ensuring software functionality across multiple platforms and environments

The main goal of compatibility testing is to make sure that your applications works on various platforms, configurations, and under different conditions. The rule here is simple: the better the compatibility of your app, the more users will be using it.

Mitigating risks associated with incompatibilities

Compatibility testing can help reduce risks of compatibility-related issues. Thanks to such testing, you can identify risks early before they turn into real issues for your users.

Enhancing user experience and customer satisfaction

High compatibility of your product improves the satisfaction of your customers. Given how many users with different configurations there are, software that has a high compatibility level will satisfy more people and positively affect the image of your software development team and company.

Supporting product scalability and market reach

Quality Assurance specialists can use compatibility testing to ensure that their software works correctly on various platforms and under different usage. And if the app can handle more data, bigger workloads, and a growing user base, it means that their product shows good scalability. It also results in a better market reach as more compatible products appeal to users of different devices and platforms so the company can reach a wider audience.

Best practices to follow when compatibility testing is performed

Comprehensive test planning and strategy development

By focusing on test planning and strategy, QA teams can effectively test their software for various compatibility issues. A good test strategy goes a long way and will help you avoid dealing with frustrated users who experience compatibility problems.

Testing early and often

The sooner you start testing, the more compatibility issues you’re likely to identify and address. Test early and test often as it increases your chances of finding compatibility issues in the most bizarre configurations and scenarios that your creative users can come up with.

Prioritizing most critical issues

First things first. Make the compatibility issues that are the most common and affect the greatest number of your users your top priority. You won’t be able to fix every tiny problem, that’s why it’s important to focus on compatibility scenarios that really matter. If you find some time after fixing your top compatibility priorities, you can always move on to other issues.

Continuous monitoring and reporting of compatibility issues

Be vigilant and be on the lookout for any compatibility problems by establishing a good monitoring process. Monitor and report issues as soon as you spot them. Sometimes such a process will help you catch an issue before it’s noticed during regular testing.

Tools for compatibility testing

When choosing a good compatibility testing tool, you should focus on what devices and browsers a specific solution supports as well as features that it offers, including testing methods or report generation.

When it comes to compatibility testing, you have a plenty of great tools at your disposal. Some good examples include:

BrowserStack - a cloud-based solution that offers cross-browser testing capabilities.

LambdaTest - another cloud-based platform that provides parallel testing and mobile testing features.

TestComplete - a commercial solution that you can use to test web apps as well as mobile and desktop applications.

Conclusion

Testers should dedicate their time to compatibility testing because that way, they can make sure that their software will work seamlessly on multiple different devices and platforms. Early detection of compatibility issues can help fix them before the new release hits the production environment and users start submitting support tickets. In other words, in the long run, compatibility testing can positively affect the company’s image and user experience.

Key takeaways and recommendations for effective compatibility testing

The most important things that QA specialists and testers should remember about compatibility testing is that testing should be done often and early in the development process. Always test on multiple different configurations and platforms to detect as many compatibility issues as possible. Document and report all problems and keep on monitoring for compatibility problems all the time.

Stay updated with emerging technologies in the field

New software versions and devices enter the market every day. As a tester, you should keep up with all tech novelties and approach from the compatibility standpoint. It’s important because many of your users may be early adopters of new technologies. They will also be the first ones to point out any compatibility issues, so create a good compatibility testing strategy, test the application that your team's been developing, and stay ahead of any compatibility problems!

Happy (automated) testing!

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