Broken links are one of the most frustrating experiences for a web site visitor. A broken link is one that leads to a non-existent page, either on the site or an external site. Unless special code or custom error pages have been added to a site, the visitor is presented with a bland "404 Page not found" error or an equivalent that gives the user no indication of what to do next. This is a surefire way to encourage a visitor to go away and maybe not visit again.
For a designer, finding broken links on a site can be a vexing problem. There’s no visual indication of a problem on the site, and neither design tools nor markup editors will expose these problems while they’re being designed. Finding broken links can be a tedious and time-consuming task without automated tools.
Some of the best tools for this purpose are available on the web for free. One of my favorites is available at http://validator.w3.org/checklink
. The World Wide Web consortium develops the specifications and guidelines for Web design standards, so you can be sure that this tool works!
Upon opening the page, all that's needed to start is to type in the URL to examine and click the Check button. This process will take between 20 seconds and several minutes depending on the number of links it needs to examine and the responsiveness of the pages represented by those links. During this time, it examines the page markup for the existence of anchors and links then makes a call for each page to determine its status. It also checks for redundant links and can provide warnings for indicating when destination pages have been moved and redirected.
Both a detail and summary output is provided. The list of links examined is shown for each copy and pasting into a spreadsheet or other tracking document. Following the detail section is summary of all problems shown in both tabular format and list format. They identify the problem, the HTTP error code, the count of occurrences, what corrective actions to take, and even the line number of HTML code that caused the problem.
All site designers and webmasters should consider using this tool to find errors on their sites. An error-free site improves visitor retention and maintains the professional image of your organization.