Unless your site is a single page, you probably use links as your main navigation tool. You might have links at the top of a page that take the user farther down on the same page, thus preventing excessive scrolling. You also might have links that take users to other pages on your site. Both of these are internal links. There are several ways to prevent broken internal links.
Research Link-Checking Tools
Fortunately, there are many software tools on the market that are designed to automate the link-checking process. Most perform functions other than checking for broken links, such as editing for spelling and syntax errors. Some Web site design software programs, such as FrontPage, include link-checking capabilities. These products are readily available and affordable, and you should look for one that has an interface you understand. One such tool is NetMechanic; note the user-friendly interface in the sample summary. However, link-checking programs have their limitations. It is a good idea to check links manually to make sure that they really do work. There is nothing like putting yourself in the shoes of your Web site visitor to help you notice areas of your site that may not be performing as you'd like.
Take a Proactive Approach to Preventing Broken Links
Since internal links all point to files or pages on your own site, you have the ability to make sure they're all working properly. One of the most common problems is simply a typographical or syntactical error in the code (usually HTML) that designates the link destination. If you are creating links with Web site design software or an HTML editor, it is a good idea to choose a file from the file list rather than typing in the file name manually. This approach can help you avoid making errors that create bad links. Establishing thorough proofreading in your Web production process is a key preventive measure, and like any kind of testing, it is an ongoing practice that accompanies every addition or change to the site. Internal links can also be compromised by an automated expiration process. In other words, if a program is set up to remove dated content from the site, make sure it removes any links that point to that content as well.
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