Mink Machine

The importance of valid links

A major CMS company recently had a large restructure of their site. Unfortunately the link management seems to be have had a low priority. For example, some of the links look like this:

javascript:__doPostBack(‘ctl00$MainRegion$MainContentRegion$repCategories
$ctl02$LinkButton4′,”)

Which means you cannot copy it or even open in a new tab. These kind of links are quite common when using ASP.NET web controls out of the box.

The benefits of proper links should be obvious: Friendly to search engines, possibility to bookmark or paste it for future reference, open in a new tab for reading convenience, sending it to a friend and so on.

In addition to the above, a lot of links are also broken. Many have been broken for ages even on the old site but a lot more broken links have appeared after the restructure, all with the same terrible error message. This is bad for a number of reasons. Search hits on Google will come to a broken page and scare off the users. Previous bookmarks will no longer work and people will have to find that special page once more (this happens to me all the time). All of this from a company that develop a market-leading CMS…

A simple way to handle it would be to write redirects from the old addresses to the new ones. When there are no counterparts, show a friendly message with pointers on where to go instead. This is not exactly rocket science but many choose to neglect the broken links altogether.

4 comments

  • avatar
    mandus
    11 May, 2008

    Yes, that is really super annoying. I’ve installed some kind of plugin to block javascripts, and it’s far too often that I have to allow the site’s javascripts to just get some basic surfing done, like clicking on links. :)

  • avatar
    11 May, 2008

    Yeah, that sucks.
    Unfortunately quite a lot of the web controls in ASP.NET requires JavaScript to work, thus breaking WCAG 1.0. But since they are shipped with the product, almost everybody will use them blindly instead of considering better alternatives.

  • avatar
    Jonas
    12 May, 2008

    JavaScript in the combination with onclick is even nastier. I first experienced it with phpBB but other has followed (lead?) suit; putting the link in a div that has onclick with a JavaScript that opens the link. The whole idea is that you shall be able to treat an area (i.e. the div) as a button, but using Firefox (or any tabbed browser) and Command-click (or equivalent) to open a new tab will result in a new tab and the old tab moving to the link target. A serious pain in the lower regions.
    One could blame the browser here, but I think the heuristics to deduce when to invoke the onclick and when to ignore it will be a serious nightmare, so I think the real culprit and the one to hang is the website.

  • avatar
    12 May, 2008

    That’s true. Regardless of what we feel about certain browsers and their shortcomings, the responsibility to get it right lies with the website developer where ignorance or lack of knowledge is not good enough for an excuse.

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