One of the last steps, just before launching a website, should be thoroughly testing it in all major browsers and all OS versions that you expect your visitor base to use. Why is this so important. Lets tell a little story about something I found out during testing.
The company I’m working for is close to releasing a new way for customers to buy their products. What and how I won’t bore you with. Suffice it to say that there was a way to buy the products in an already installed application or straight from the website.
At first that does not look like a problem, you just offer a different experience for the application based buyers then those visitors buying online. (You wouldn’t wasn’t to give people in the application the full bloated webpages)
This was accomplished by passing a pre set variable to the website, which would tell it “He I’m an application” instead of “He I’m on the website”. Initially this appeared to work. That is until I tested it in Internet Explorer 5.5, which is still supported by us. This version refused to pass the variable, thus not making the distinction between application buyers and ‘online’ buyers.
What this teaches developers is never to expect your tools to work. If you want people to visit your website and use it with pleasure then test it. It would be embarrassing if you launched a website that did not work in Internet Explorer 7 or Firefox 1.5
Does this mean you need to test in all possible combinations. No, at least I don’t believe so. But you should test those combinations that you expect your users to use. If you don’t know which combinations these are then research it. Spend some money and time to get to know your user base a bit better.