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GIVE YOUR WEBSITE A HEALTH CHECK - 1

As your website expands it gets harder to make sure everything is working properly.  There are some easy checks you can do which help pinpoint any problems. First set aside some time each month to read through every page of your website online and check that the links go to the right places. Whenever possible ask someone unconnected with the club to read through the website.

Dave explains and confesses:

  • Check Online because sometimes the version on your computer is not quite what visitors see. (I often forget to send pictures to the hosting service. I see them on pages at home but online there are those annoying blanks with a cross in the corner.)
  • Read every page so that you spot things which passed the spell-checker but which are not what you intended: "their" for "there", "weather" for "whether" and so on.
    (You will also find yourself tweaking and improving the text. What seemed fine a few weeks ago now looks clumsy or misleading! You may also be horrified to see some badly out of date items.)
  • Checking links means you are sure they go to the right places. (On another website I recently put up pictures of winning films with links to online versions of them ... not until the film maker pointed it out did I realise the picture from the winning film showed clips from the runner-up!)
  • Someone unconnected will spot those local references that are commonplace among club members but mean little to others: "this week we meet in the Annexe", "Jemma returns to talk more about her project" "The Ellie is out of action."
  • Check how yourr website is used by visitors - see our forthcoming article on Website Analytics.

There are tools to help you check your website but they are sometimes a little daunting for inexperienced webmasters.


Salutary Example

To give you an idea of how easy it is to miss faults visit the Wave Website and type or paste in the URL (web address) of one of your pages … and see where it identifies good and bad points. We tried it with our page, Colours - Part 2 and this is what we got back:

Screenshot of a report on the WAVE website showing a fault.

It looks complicated but it is quite straightforward. Your site gets covered in these different coloured symbols and pointing the mouse at a symbol brings up an explanation. Here is a summary - and notice that some symbols are not errors, just explanations:

  • Blue symbols are structural elements like the "h2" at the top left corner showing that we used a level two heading.
  • Green symbols indicate accessibility features here you can see the alt text behind the images is shown on a pale blue background.
    Other symbols suggest you have made a mistake or missed something.
  • Yellow symbols are alerts "alt=alt" points out that we have several images with the same alt text which may be correct but is not helpful.
  • red symbols are errors. Here we forgot to add the alt text behind the image of a link button saying "About Us". Oops!

HOW ARE YOUR LINKS?

A web page usually has links to other pages, other websites and to separate files like pictures. If any of those fail to work properly it can make navigation difficult or get visitors lost. Links can be checked by programs ...

A word of warning: they check that your link goes to a web page or a picture but it may not be the right one. If you have misnamed a file, the photo of the Club Championship Cup might be replaced by a picture of a mouse. Your link marked "BBC" might go to "Channel 4" and so on. Whenever possible "deep link" - that is go to the page on an outside website which is of interest to your readers rather than just to the front page.  If you still use frames on your website make sure a link does not open inside one of your frames - that looks as if you are claiming the content as your own and has led to legal cases in the past.
So do not rely on these checking tools alone.

W3C Online Tools

Xenu Link Sleuth - desktop tool

("W3C" = The World Wide Web Consortium, the international standards organisation for the internet.) They provide a suite of tools that you can use online to check your website.

Most of these tools assume you have a good knowledge of website building and the recommended standards. Parts of those reports can be a bit baffling for most of us.

We do, however, recommend the W3C Link Checker. This gives a very thorough check to the links both within your website and to other websites. It plods along - it could zip through much faster but moves at a stately pace so as not to put too much pressure on your website host. We suggest you tick the box saying "Summary Only".

Notes

1. Some popular websites do not allow test programs to visit them and this is reported as
      Line: 125 http://vimeo.com/14698037
Status: 403 Forbidden
This link is forbidden! This needs fixing. Usual suspects: a missing index.html or Overview.html, or a missing ACL.
Just check it yourself to be sure it works!
2. Some links work even if they are not technically correct.
Line: 177 http://www.theiac.org.uk%20/
Status: (N/A) Can't connect to www.theiac.org.uk :80 (Bad hostname 'www.theiac.org.uk ')
The hostname could not be resolved. Check the link for typos.
"%20" is the html code for a space, so there is a space between "uk" and "/". Spaces are not allowed in URLs so it is marked as an error. What is confusing is that this link works when you try it manually. That is because the "/" at the end of a URL is optional, so your web browser ignores the space and "/" after it.

In practice using spaces in file names usually works these days but avoid them if you can. Older websites used underscored "my_page" but they can be difficult to see when in a link they are underlined as well. We suggest you use hyphens "my-page".

3. The checker recognises but does not check email links.
Line: 89 mailto:Finchley.Film.Makers@googlemail.com
Status: (N/A) Access to 'mailto' URIs has been disabled
Accessing links with this URI scheme has been disabled in link checker.
Would you want a program sending test emails to everyone?! The "URI" is a variation on "URL" but does pretty much the same job. The best you can do is check it yourself with a polite email and a request that the recipient let you know it arrived.
A faster link checking program  that the W3C one is the free Xenu Link Sleuth which can check the files on your computer or the files on the live website. This is a bit more technical and not for beginners.

  1. Download and run it. From the File menu > Check URL...
  2. Type in your full URL including the name of the first page. (e.g. http://www.anytown-movies.co.uk/index.html)
  3. Tick the box marked Check external links. Ignore the other options and click OK.
  4. After a moment you see a display of how it is working through your pages and finally you are offered a report which opens in your web browser.

This reports many of the same strange sounding errors as the W3C checker does (see left hand column). But it will show you whenever a link does not work.

If you persevere with Xenu it also has a facility for finding orphan pages - pages which are on your website but not linked and so are invisible to your visitors. (It is surprising how easily that can happen if you have a front page link to some important news and later change he front page to point at later news.)


How Big Are Your Pages?

Most of us now have a reasonably fast web connection - but not everyone does. Some homes are too far from telephone exchanges to enjoy high speeds, even if technically they are on broadband. A few people still use dial-up modems.

If you are curious about how long your pages take to download visit: WebSiteOptimization's page analyzer. Just enter the page address in the Enter URL to diagnose field, click Submit Query, after a moment you will be asked to type in some letters and numbers (a Capcha test to be sure you are a person and not a computer program) and then you are shown details of the download size, download times etc.

The advice lower down that page is less helpful.

If some visitors use slow systems they expect all websites to be slow loading. But if the page takes more than 10 seconds to download on what the site calls "T1 1.44Mbps" connection check why it is so big - the usual culprits are pictures - either oversized or not saved in compressed formats like jpg, jpeg, gif or png.


How do visitors see your page?

People use a variety of computers, operating systems and web browsers. A few years ago web pages could look significantly different depending what you used. Now browsers are much more standardised.

Download and install copies of the main browsers: Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari and Chrome. Take turns using them to check your site. If you are a PC user ask friends with Macs to check your site - and vice-versa.

Health Check part 2 Right pointing arrow.


Website Makeover Guides - Introduction

What Should the Content Be? | Navigation | Planning Navigation | Anchors & Links | Words | Getting Pictures | Getting & Using Pictures
Processing Pictures | Video | Presentation Pictures | Colours | Layout Principles | Layout Schemes | Fonts | What is SEO?
Search Engine Factors | Check Your Search Ranking | Stay Legal | Website Health Check | Website No Goes more to come ...

A Beginner's Guide to Creating a Club Website with Weebly

Don't Panic! | Signing up to Weebly | Making your first (elegant) page | Adding more pages and navigation
Adding pictures and words | Creating a complex Coming Soon Page | Adding Forms, Emails, Maps and Videos.

IAC Competition to find the Best Club Website 2011


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Page updated on 19 January 2011
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