Wherein Alyssa Milano Teaches Us A Lesson

You might have heard me say Every thing, every time before. That means you check every link on every page, too. Sometimes your leaders, developers, or other scoffqualities will encourage you to shortcut this by only checking the important links or only checking the links that have the same targets once and calling it a pass. But the lovely and talented (and by talented, I mean “lovely” although she’s a better actress than Brett Favre) Alyssa Milano helps to illustrate this lesson.

A lot of times, the time shavers in your organization will encourage you to ignore checking the main navigational links on more than one page. The navigation is the same across the site, so the links that work on any page obviously work on any page.

For example, here’s the gallery page of Alyssa Milano’s Web site:

Alyssa Milano gallery
Click for full size

Notice that I’ve moused over the Message Boards link; notice, too, the URL that displays in the footer:
http://boards.celebrityloop.com/forumdisplay.php?f=110

This URL is the correct URL and leads to the off-site message boards. Why you put an off-site location in the main navigation, I don’t know; I assume it’s from a site redesign.

I assume that because the same navigational link on the home page is broken.

Alyssa Milano Home Page
Click for full size

Here, you see that I’ve also moused over the Message Board link on the home page, and it targets:
http://alyssa.com/messageboard/msgboard.html

This, friends, returns a 404 right from the home page, which I understand is not a best practice for roughly 40% of Web development companies and interactive agencies (and a full 7% wouldn’t think this is an issue since there’s a workaround: click another navigational link to a page with the correct target, then click the Message Boards link! See, no problem!).

Now, in most cases, you’d find the broken link on the home page because you’d test the navigation on it or because a lot of stake holders would try that combination; however, if the incorrect links were reversed, you might miss that the Message Boards link was broken on one interior page like the Gallery.

Unless you test every thing, every time.

Even though your development or design team would tell you that the navigational links are inherited, included, or somehow otherwise exempt from the need to test them independently on every page. Your development or design team often misunderestimates its own fallibility and doesn’t include in that assessment all the loopholes it builds into the design, such as stray pages developed/designed earlier than the main site, developed/designed later than the main site, special promotional pages, or a host of other places where they have the chance to copy/include old or incorrect code or otherwise bollix it up.

So, ungentle reader, you need to ignore the bleatings and check all of those links on pretty much every page to ensure quality because the site’s myriad user will find those exceptions to the developer/designer’s “rules.”

This includes the footer links, too, because Ms. Milano also points out that those are independent navigational links, too:

Alyssa Milano Home Page footer
Click for full size

That targets:
http://www.alyssa.com/messageboard/msgboard.html?f=110

Which is a different broken link than the main navigation at the top, and a quick search and replace to fix the broken link or updated link would have a good chance of bollixing it up again or more.

So there you go, ungentle reader. You should check all the links, all the time, when you’re testing a Web site. Maybe you’ve got a good automated tool to help with this, but you need to get it done.

That would be the proper concluding paragraph, but Ms. Milano’s Web site offers a different lesson in branding that I thought I’d bring up before you’re all done here and get back to exploring her galleries. Note the title tag for the site: Alyssa Milano.com.

This is a poor decision simply because the site is at alyssa.com, and alyssamilano.com leads not to the worst of all possible worlds, but to a cybersquatter site:

The real Alyssa Milano.com
Click for full size

By intimating that Ms. Milano’s Web site is Alyssa Milano.com, the designers and developers are unintentionally feeding traffic to the cybersquatter’s Web site. Poor form, Peter.

 

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