When you’re developing a large website, you often find yourself with a couple of broken links floating around on your site. As most developers working on dynamic sites generally don’t think about it, your first indication that you have a problem is usually only after deployment.
Either you’re unlucky enough to have it brought to your attention by a customer, or you discover it yourself using a tool like Google’s Webmaster Tools.
This is exactly what happened to me while working on our new Cape Town Accommodation venture www.stayunlimited.com.
The webmaster tools will allow you to drill into the info and find the offending links. Now you happily go off and fix the problem in your site and deploy again.
But hang on a second. How can you be sure that you haven’t created more broken links in the process of fixing the problem you initially identified? With a dynamic site making heavy use of URL rewriting this is a major possibility (and it happens to be exactly what happened to me).
Obviously you need to test that your site is now broken link free. You can be optimistic about it and wait for Google to re-index your site so you can check the webmaster tools again (probably not a very good idea). Or you can use one of the many online link checkers available to scan your site. But that isn’t that great a solution either, because at this point you’ve already deployed the site.
First prize then would be to check your site for broken links in your development environment before deploying. There are a number of tools available for doing this, but most are commercial and not free of charge. The SoftwareQATest.com website has a number of tools listed if you’re interested.
From their list I discovered the excellent freeware Xenu utility by Tilman Hausherr. This little Windows app will scan through your locally deployed website and highlight any broken links, allowing you to fix them before deploying!
What more could you ask for?