The Google Vector

Sure, you think you’re pretty smart. You’ve got a workflow outlined with some handy validation and logic that ensures that the user goes through the workflow in order and does what you intend. Say, for instance, you’re Wine.com. Here’s the home page; note how it loads a modal thing to force the user to select a state to ensure that he or she can actually buy wine online:

Choose your state.
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What happens if you click continue without making a selection. Why, it gives you a handy message that indicates the very necessity of choosing a state:

A validation message!  Our work here is done.
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Our work here is done, right? Well, no, you’re not accounting for the Google vector.Remember, Google and other search engines can bring traffic to your site sometimes into places where you didn’t intend them to go. For example, let’s assume we’re using Froogle to find a nice chianti for those times when we’re having a developer for dinner:

A nice chianti.  I think.  I don't know chiantis.
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Now, let’s click through to that deal. Note that Froogle dumps us onto a page aside from the home page of Wine.com, where the shipping state is set. The handy modal layer displays so we have to choose. Or do we?

The return of the legend.
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(Note that Wine.com sets a cookie for you, so this won’t display if you’ve already set a state on the home page.) Now, if you click continue….

Owie
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Oopsie daisy.

When you’re testing, you need to not only make sure your workflow works from one end to the other, but also make sure that the application handles situations where users jump into your site and/or workflows in the middle.

Otherwise, Google will help your users find your site in its cups.

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