Virtual Mechanics

Your Web Site is your castle

Your Web Site is your castle. Just how sturdy, robust and resistant to
failure is it?

A little dramatic maybe, but like the lord of most castles, you are
probably apt to see it from the inside out. That is, you know how it is
supposed to work, you know how the search engines are expected to
rank it and you know which graphics are expected to be displayed.
You know, because they are all their on your computer.

Some of the most annoying problems I encountered when first
designing web pages were missing images and bad links. I would
create my web pages on my local computer, post them to my web
site and then test them with my browser to confirm that everything
was working fine. The Meta Tags were all set up for the search
engines, the links would all work and all the graphics would be
there. So how could I get an email politely pointing out that some of
the links did not work or that some of the images were missing? I
would test again and they would be working. I would get more
emails about problems.

Obviously someone did not have their Browser set up correctly or
were having a problem with their ISP.

It is probably human nature to believe your senses and blame other
people's inexperience or equipment when they encounter a problem
that you do not have. When you start getting multiple messages from
unrelated people however, it is time to admit that it is your problem.

More detailed testing would eventually reveal that some of the
image tags and links would point to pictures and pages on my local
computer. When I tested the web site everything would appear to
work since my Browser could readily find these files for me. Since
no one else had them, they would experience problems.

Eventually, we substantially minimized this problem when we
incorporated the 'Gather' publishing option into our software. This
capability to FTP all referenced files to the server is now available in
several HTML editors but it is not foolproof, does not solve all
problems and is not available to everyone. It also does not address
many other potential web page problems faced by HTML designers.

Some of the tricks we used (and sometimes still do) included
changing the names of the image directories so that they could not
be found by the web page or testing the web site from other
available machines. Changing directory names can be risky while
other local machines have a tendency to get contaminated with the
same files and directories that your design machine uses. Their
testing usefulness can quickly become unreliable. Using friends,
relatives and colleges should be a standard step. In addition to
technical problems they can offer subjective opinions and
suggestions (whether you like it or not).

There are now several free sites available that will test your web
pages for all kinds potential problems and give you a complete
analysis. In addition to missing links and images, they will test your
Meta Tags, HTML code, download speed and Link Popularity, all of
which can be invaluable to a Web Designer.

Next week I will discuss the relevance of the analysis some of these
sites provide. Below, I have listed the two sites I am familiar with. If
you know of any more or have any experience or comments please
send them to news@VirtualMechanics.com and I will incorporate
them into my next article.

Web Site Garage
Net Mechanic

"IMS Web Tips" ISSN 1488-7088
© Copyright 1999 Virtual Mechanics

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