I bet you figured that since you have a website, it probably works fine on all devices. But have you checked? And where and how would you?
A knowledgeable web developer will try and create sites that are cross-platform. In other words: viewable and functional in most browsers. I say most, because we can not realistically test in every one in existence. At least, not if we want to do anything else with our time. And there are many that most people have never heard of beyond what I think of as The Big 5: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Safari.
All web browsers, because they are made by different companies and different people, interpret the code used to make a web page differently. The more fancy the site, the more we have to do to make the site cross-platform. A knowledgeable person will do their best to work the code so a site will function as much as possible, and look as good as possible, among lots of browsers. We also consider technology beyond your standard computer too, such as smart phones and iPads. We also think about your visitors who are blind and are using screen readers that tell them what is on the page.
Due to the way browsers are made and technology evolves, a web page may even be interpreted differently between different versions of the same browser too. For example, there is a difference in how we create sites for Internet Explorer 6 and Internet Explorer 8.
This is the difference between having a site done by a professional and having it done by a friend, child, or other person that does this as a hobby. Generally, the amateur has not learned that their code does not operate the same way in every system. They don’t know to test to make sure what they are creating is cross-platform. This is not bad per se. Not for a hobbyist site. But for your business, it could be disastrous. What happens if a sizable chunk of your audience is using a browser that your site is broken in?
This is why I, when creating new sites, test live in 5 different web browsers, plus at least 1 phone browser. And I test as I code so I don’t finish the site and have to start all over. I have a membership to a site that will provide screenshots of my site in a wide range of browser, many of which the general public has never even heard of. Also, as new browsers are released, I check my client’s sites and make sure they still work in the new browser (IE9 came out March 14, 2011).
One thing we bear in mind when making a website: we shoot for making it look decent and functional in most browser. You can not create an identical browser experience for all. It’s not possible, so let that dream die. Trust me, if it was possible, web designers and developers would be all over that like a duck on a June bug! We don’t say you can’t because we’re lazy or we haven’t tried. Oh we have. We’ve spent countless hours. But we also know the limits of the technology too. You may say, “Why not just put up a “best viewed in < insert browser here > ” note”? This is like asking your customers to only wear a yellow shirt when they enter your store. It’s rude, silly, and they’ll never do it. It’s not an option if you want to do business online. To be fair, there are exceptions to that rule. Banks can get away with it because people will use any browser they are told if they want to interact with their money. But by and large, most sites can’t get away with that.
Want to test your site? There are a number of ways you easily can do this on your own.
One way is to go to BrowserShots and enter your site. You’ll have to wait a while if you don’t have a paid subscription. You’ll see more browsers than you even knew were in existence. I have a paid subscription with a similar site called BrowserCam.
Another way is to download the latest and greatest of the Big 5: Chrome, Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Internet Explorer (you can only get the latest, version 9, if you are on Windows 7). UPDATE 12/18/2014: Internet Explorer is now up to version 11 and comes with Windows 8.
Not sure what browser most people are using when they visit your site? Get Google Analytics. It’s free and easy to use. You just need to sign up and than have a small amount of code placed on your site so Google can track visitor statistics. Your web host also tends to track these things and the information is usually available in a reporting section of your web panel when you sign into your hosting account. You may notice the report from the host and Google are not the same. It is because they track site visitors differently. But neither Google nor the web host report are the final word or a full picture of all of your site visitors. This just gives you some information so you can start planning your site around your visitors better.
Now go forth and test your website!