&ed Up Links

How many times does this happen to you?

  1. You test a Web site and find links that include & in the href in places where the querystring contains parameters.
  2. You log a defect to that effect, saying that the links are problematic.
  3. Some developer/designer looks at the defect and responds, “& is the way the ampersand is encoded in HTML.  This is not a problem.  Silly QA person with no technical knowledge!  Get me a Red Bull from the refrigerator.”

It happens in e-mails, it happens in Web sites, it happens in the dreams we have when we finally fall into a fitful sleep about 4am after worrying about how the company is going bust because it relies on developers who spread hubris on their crackers and think they’re fancy.

Listen up, children: Ampersands encoded in text in a Web site are okay, but ampersands encoded in links do not work.  Observe:

http://www.sqaforums.com/showflat.php?Cat=0&Number=324564&an=UBB1&page=0#Post324564 fails.

http://www.sqaforums.com/showflat.php?Cat=0&Number=324564&an=UBB1&page=0#Post324564 works.

Now, what is the difference within this?  Ah, yes, the harmlessly encoded ampersands that the developers and designers will tell the cute little QA staff, ignorant in the mysteries of technology that the acolyte developers gleaned through divine four-year university Comp Sci degree revelations.

When parameters determine the content that displays, it’s easy to demonstrate because the page fails.  But if your ampersanded parameters only tack on market segmentation or user tracking information, it won’t fail on content load, but your application is still failing.

Fix it, and fix it now.

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