An ounce of prevention


Once your website grows to a certain size, you’re going to end up with a few broken links. Other sites tend to change their filenames, move to new domains, or take certain pages down entirely. This is especially true with smaller sites that don’t understand how to use a redirect when a URL is changed. In short, if you’re linking to other people’s sites at all, a few hiccups are bound to arise. Granted, you can use various software programs to automatically check for broken links, but you’ll still need to go back and make corrections when problems are found.

Ok, so linking to other sites isn’t an exact science. But linking to your own pages should come pretty close. For the most part, this is also true when you link to things like search engines and mapping sites, since they’re quite good at making sure their pages keep working (even when the URL scheme changes). And that’s why it blows my mind that so many sites have broken links to these most basic of things. My personal favorite: A site provides a list of their retail stores or office locations with links to Google or Yahoo maps, but the webmaster uses an address that the destination site can’t understand. This makes the map link totally useless. And I’m willing to bet that this link never worked — they just never bothered to test it.

At the very least, broken links are frustrating to customers. And in many cases, they can have a direct, negative impact on revenues. After all, if people can’t locate your stores or add things to their shopping cart, they probably won’t be buying anything from you. So, when it comes to really important things like sign-up and contact forms, maps and directions to your stores or offices, and shopping cart and checkout features, do yourself a favor: Make sure the links actually work.