We’re Not Laughing With You, We’re Laughing At You

Yeah, I know, comma splice in the headline. Deal with it.

So I’m flipping through the Saturday Night Live Web pages on NBC.com, trying to figure out when the new season starts, but that’s apparently a closely guarded secret. Please, NBC urges me, watch some highly dated topical humor from October 2010 instead. Christine O’Donnell jokes will be eternally funny!

So I start clicking the next > the slideshow of Recap clips in the middle of the page, and it says:

Err....undefined

err: undefined does sound a little like a British non-lexical vocable speech disfluency, kinda like the machine is saying, “Uh….oops.” However, it’s two bad things in one: an error condition and an undefined error condition.

Within a content management system (CMS) environment, which I assume NBC.com uses, they have a way for non-technical people to enter content into a slideshow presentation like this, complete with images and links and whatnot. Some Web sites are built with a base set and expanded or replaced as needed. How to test for them?

In the beginning and in smaller starting sites or with content rotators that will not change content, you can simply manually test to ensure the content and images are there and correct.

With a larger site that’s going to be out there long term with a bunch of interns mucking around in the CMS, you should try to get some automated testing running through it that clicks through the elements in an individual content rotator and looks not so much for grammar errors or incongruities between the text, image, and links (if any), but instead focuses on making sure that each click brings a complete new slide with image and not an error or missing content. Then, you should schedule that automated test to run regularly, nightly if you can make it, and send you results that will highlight when someone has bollixed it up accidentally.

And a note about this particular error: it does not show in Internet Explorer, but in Firefox, it overlays the screen as seen above. The most basic things, such as link checking, should be part of your browser compatibility tests especially if they involve anything more complicated than links using the <a href=""> HTML tag. JavaScript has its ways of making differences known amongst the varying browsers.

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