Housekeeping – an essential part of website maintenance

Managing broken links

As of April 2007, the average MU Extension county office website has an average of 200 broken links.  Some have far more. Broken links make a frustrating experience for visitors and lower the overall credibility of your site.

MS FrontPage provides an easy way to check for and correct broken links in your Web pages. Here are the steps.

1.  Open MS FrontPage and log into your county office site.

2. At the bottom of the application, when you are in the "web site" view, there is a series of tabs across the bottom edge of the window. Look for the one called "Reports" and select it. (It may take a minute or so for the reports view to appear.)

3. The report summary will come up, then click on either "Hyperlinks" or "Broken hyperlinks" to change to that report. You will immediately be asked if you would like FrontPage to verify the hyperlinks in the site. Say yes. FrontPage will check every link to see if it works. 

4. Sort the list of links by their status, so broken links come to the top. Now you can look through the broken links. 

You  can fix links quickly if you know what the correct URL for the link is — i.e. mdc.mo.us has changed to mdc.mo.gov (Dept of Conservation). Just double-click on the link and change the URL to the correct one.

If you don't know what the link should be or want to remove it altogether, double-click on the broken link, then click "edit page" to bring up the page where the broken link occurs. The link area will be highlighted if it is text. Make your changes, then save and close the page to get back to the report.

TIPS for fixing broken links

A few links will appear to be broken but are actually OK. These are links to pages or directory names within the MU Extension site where the page ends in .shtml. FrontPage will assume these are broken, but in fact they probably work. That is, if you see a link to /wcregion/ listed as broken, you can test it yourself, but it will be OK. There is typically a small percentage of these, but it can be annoying.

Links that start with  file://c:... or file://Q:... will always be broken because that is a local hard drive or server that is not accessible via the Web. To fix these, you will need to move the linked file out to the Web server rather than store it on your hard drive or share drive.

Below: screenshot of the summary report

 

Unlinked files

Unlinked files are ones that were added to the website at one time but are no longer used — they aren't linked from any page, so visitors cannot get to them. They are just taking up valuable server space and should be removed. If you think they might have some future value or use, you should copy them to either your hard drive, a CD, or your shared server space for storage. The website should not be used as general storage space for old files. It is NOT a filing cabinet.

The Unlinked Files report in FrontPage will show you a list of files that are not being used or linked to by any other pages in your site. Most commonly these will be images that were uploaded with a page that is no longer used or has been removed, or files that were registration forms for past events, etc.

In the example screenshot above, the report shows there are 23 megabytes of unlinked files (321 total files). That's about 30% of the volume of the whole website!

Don't just go to the list and delete them all, though. Make sure they really are old, unused files.

Old content

If it's five years old, is it really news any more? Probably not.

Are you sure you need all fifty of those photos from the 2003 4-H picnic on the website?

Please audit your websites for old, out of date and irrelevant content. Remove old files — move them to your hard drive or shared office file server if you want to keep them for posterity.

A newsletter archive is OK as long as every document is clearly dated and the collection is labeled as an archive. Otherwise you could be giving people out of date and inaccurate information that they perceive as current. 

If the newsletters are old but there are a few articles from them that you want to keep, pull them apart and put the articles on individual pages as articles, not news. Before you take the time to do that, though, do a search to see if the same (or similar) article is already published somewhere else in the MU Extension website — i.e. on Missouri Families or AgEBB. You might be able to just link to the same information.