Last week I introduced the problems of testing your site for missing
links and images. A common problem often relates to seeing your
web site from the inside out. In other word, things that appear to
work for you may not work for your visitors. This is often caused by
file references that point back to your computer. When you test, your
Browser can easily find these files because they are were they are
supposed to be. Visitors not having access to your directories will
see the typical missing image box.
The obvious step in solving this problem is to get your friends,
relatives and colleges to test your site (Why do they often discover
that they must have an often put off root canal when you ask?). In
addition to finding missing images, they are usually more than
happy to give you their subjective opinion whether you want it or
The first step however, should be to test your site with a specialized
program that will find and report on these and many other possible
problems. If you have a large commercial site you probably already
have an application designed specifically for this. If you do not,
there are still several free testing sites that you can use.
Both these sites allow you to enter the URL of any page on your web
site. You would normally start with your home page but there is no
reason why you can not enter any page that you have updated by
simply appending its name to the URL of your site. (don't forget the
.htm or .html extension)
The generated report will include:
Meta Tag readiness
Web Site Garage will also check:
So how useful are these reports and how should you interpret them?
The Dead Link check is obviously of value. It will quickly tell you
which URLs or files could not be found and show you the code so
that you can correct the problem.
The Link Popularity generated by Web Site Garage is also useful for
identifying how many sites have links to your site. You can of course
do this yourself as I have discussed in past issues on setting up yourMeta Tags.
What about the other reports? Well they can be of value but take
them with a grain of salt.
Meta Tag readiness is valuable since it will show you the complete
list of the Meta Tags on your page and report any obvious problems
it finds. It will not however, tell you how well your site will be
ranked by the search engines or indexes. There are many other
factors involved in this determination. See the Web Tips series of
articles about setting up your Meta Tags
The Spelling Check will probably identify most of your misspelled words.
It will also identify many other words that it thinks are misspelled. You
should of course be using a good spell checker before you publish your
Load Time and HTML design are the two reports that I put least
stock in. Rating a web page based on how long it takes to load is like
trying to judge Mozart by how many notes is uses. You can of course
get an excellent rating in this category by putting nothing on your
web site. Which is the better site, one that loads slowly with valuable
content or one that loads fast with no content? Download time is
important however, and if this report can identify components that
can be speeded up without sacrificing content, then it is of use.
HTML design is a technical assessment. Like load time, there is no
way to get a high rating unless you are willing to through away most
of the advances in Browser technology over the last few years. A
Web Page designed to use CSS, DHTML, frames etc., is going to
have problems with older browsers. Again, it is of value when
searching for obvious problems. Just don't forget to do your own
So how good a job do these Web Analysis tools do in the real world?
We put Web Site Garage through two real world tests and Net
Mechanic through 1.
First we used the Virtual Mechanics home page on Web Site Garage
and rated a 'Good' score. Most categories were Excellent but we only
rated a 'Fair' for load time and a 'Good' rating for Meta Tags. We
apparently have a duplicated tag but we have never able to find it.
We next tried the Web Site Garage home page itself. Surprise! They
only gave themselves a 'Fair' rating. Apparently their 'Browser
Compatibility' is Poor, their Register Readiness and Load Times are
'Good', and their HTML design is only 'Fair'. Since they were just
bought by Netscape, presumably for a profit, one can only assume
that there is more to a Web Site than rating high in a Site Analysis
Finally we tested NetMechanic on itself with similar results as Web Site
Garage. Net Mechanic gave itself 1 out of 5 stars for 22 bad links, 4
out of 5 stars for 6 HTML errors, 4 out of 5 stars for two Browser
problems and 4 out of 5 stars for 5 possible spelling errors.