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Chapter 9. building for the web > fixing a broken site

fixing a broken site

The problems you observe on your site can have a wide range of causes—from limited servers to faulty code to a poorly chosen name. So next time you say, “This doesn’t work,” you can suggest a solution.

the problem you seethe likely causeprevention/cure

Links are “broken.” When you follow a link, you get an error message. (It probably reads, “Error 404 File Not Found.”)

Either the link was written incorrectly, or the page it links to was moved or taken down.
  • Check the site regularly for incorrect or “dead” links.

  • Use a link-checking tool. Your HTML editor may have one, or try http://www.netmechanic.com.

  • Make sure to change links and provide “redirects” when you move a page on your site.

  • Customize the error message. Instead of just saying, “Error,” offer a site index or a search box.

Links don’t lead where you expected. When you follow a link, you end up someplace completely foreign or different from what you expected.

Possibly an error in the link, but more likely an error in the design, or in the labeling of the link. If the user’s path is misleading, the problem could be as simple as a poorly named link or as complex as a misunderstanding of your user’s goals.
  • Make sure all the site’s links go to the right place.

  • Make sure all the section names and labels on your site are clear. (Don’t be clever. Don’t by coy. Don’t use jargon.) See naming site sections.

  • Test the site with users to make sure it’s structured in a way they understand.

Pages don’t load. Some pages spin endlessly without loading.

Possibly server overload. If more people are visiting your site than your server can handle, it may choke on delivery. Alternately, it could be a technical problem related to a script, an application, or a “rich-media” ad.
  • Evaluate server and bandwidth capacity. Coming up short? Consider investing in more, to handle your site’s growth.

  • Test, test, test your site—and the ads on it!—on different platforms and browsers.

Pages partially load. A new page appears, but some of its elements don’t. The browser just spins. Your screen may freeze.

Likely a technical problem related to a single element—a script, an image, an ad, or even a poorly constructed piece of HTML.
  • Again: Test, test, test your site on different platform and browser combinations.

  • Don’t forget to test on the Mac! Please!

Images don’t load. The pages load, but the images don’t appear. All you see is a little broken picture or an “X.”

Either the images are misnamed, or they aren’t where they’re supposed to be, so the browser can’t “find” them.
  • Find the images. Link to them correctly.

  • Make sure you’ve named the images correctly.

  • Remember for next time: Every time you move images around, you have to make sure you’re linking to them correctly.

You can’t find anything. You know what you’re looking for, and you know it’s on the site, but you can’t for the life of you find it.

This is a problem with either site design or search. Navigation should lead users almost effortlessly toward their goals. And if that fails, the site search should take them there directly.
  • Integrate a better search mechanism. Try the one offered by Atomz: http://www.atomz.com.

  • Customize search results for the most popular searches. Pick the pages on your site that best match what the user is probably looking for, and lead with those. (You site search should let you do this. If it doesn’t, get a new search tool.)

  • Rethink the site’s organization and navigation. Does it really address user goals? User testing might help you pinpoint the problem.

Nothing makes sense. You can’t figure out how to accomplish your goal, or even how to get started.

This is a big problem.
  • Review the product plan: What, exactly, is your site supposed to do? If you don’t have a product plan, you’ve found the problem.

  • Make sure your front door clearly explains who you are and what users can do on your site.

  • Make sure your front door highlights the things most users are looking for.

Your computer crashes. As a new page loads, your screen freezes, the application quits, or your whole computer crashes.

Clearly a technical problem—most likely with a script, ad, or application within your site.
  • Once again: Leave plenty of time to test your site on different platform and browser combinations.

  • Don’t forget to test on the Mac! Please!



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