Linkchecker Feedback

We have now received feedback on the pilot deployment of our linkchecker module. We would like to thank Ed Bilodeau of Libraries, Victor Chisholm from the Faculty of Science and Lysanne Larose from the Faculty of Law for their valuable feedback; this has been a great way to validate the package we’ve put together.

What we have learned

The good:

  • “Linkchecker. Finally. Hooray!”
  • Broken link messages at top of node edit pages are useful.
  • Broken links report is sortable by URL, Response and Error fields.
  • Having both the response code and the error message is useful.

Areas for improvement:

  • No checking is done on unpublished pages.
  • Some error messages are not clear enough.
  • URL field title is misleading, maybe change it to Broken Link or Link to check.
  • Operations field title is misleading, maybe change it to Nodes with links to check.
  • Edit link should point to friendly URL, not node ID.
  • Operations should be the first column not the last.
  • The report is paginated with no way to view all.
  • The broken links are truncated making it difficult to print.
  • Operations field is not sortable, would be nice to be able to sort by source node.
  • Messages are displayed to anyone who has edit access, not just Site Managers.
  • 301 responses are sometimes confusing.
  • Pages requiring authentication are not handled well.

Comments:

  • 301s can sometimes be confusing. 301 means Moved Permanently, which in the case of a simple redirect is easy to understand, but there are other reasons that web servers return 301. The most confusing reason is missing trailing slashes. For example, the URL http://www.mcgill.ca/eps will return a 301, even though it’s a valid site. This is because the correct URL for that page is actually http://www.mcgill.ca/eps/ – notice the extra forward slash on the end. The reason we don’t return a 200 for both is that this could cause search engines to flag it as duplicate content. For more information on this topic, see  this Google Webmaster blog post.
  • Using friendly URLs instead of using the node ID – This is standard behaviour in the admin interface. Whenever you edit a node at any place in the admin interface, including Content..Edit, you will be taken to a node ID URL. For the sake of consistency, we probably won’t change this just for the linkchecker interface.
  • Operations as the last column. This is also a standard UI decision across all Drupal admin pages so will probably stay the same also. However we could look at adding another column for the source information.
  • Messages displayed to all editors. This makes sense for most sites, as the users editing the content are the ones who will be fixing broken links. However it might be worth looking at making the permissions for this more granular for edge cases.
  • For checking of unpublished content, it’s worth reading this issue in the linkchecker issue queue that discusses why linkchecker does not check unpublished nodes

Where we go from here:

The linkchecker module is not McGill developed, it’s a module from drupal.org which has been around for a long time. If we decide to make any of the suggested changes, the route we will take will probably be:

  • Create an issue in the drupal.org/project/linkchecker issue queue.
  • Possibly make the change ourselves and submit a patch to the issue.
  • Alternatively, wait for the module maintainer to make the change.

In the meantime, none of the feedback is critical enough to prevent us deploying to a wider audience, so we will probably enable the linkchecker on all sites fairly soon.

If you have other feedback on this project, don’t hesitate to leave a comment on this post.

Iteration 25

Iteration 25 is currently underway and will run from March 18th to April 10th.

Work underway includes:

  • Mass data import support for the channels system
  • Design work related to an improved interface for Important Dates 
  • Initial efforts to reintegrate AOC with the channels system
  • Improvements to unordered list styles
  • Featurization of LDAP authentication for use with Drupal 7
  • Code review of externally development for DAR
  • Import of data from the WPS mediaguide into McGill profiles
  • Stylistic fixes on /music custom applications
  • Review and testing of improvements to responsive design in primary theme
  • Review of proxy voting module for partners in ISR
  • UI  improvements to the McGill Profiles module
  • Minor aesthetic fix for homepage slideshow in IE7
  • Updates for insert_view and views_cycle modules
  • Deployment of a pause solution for the home page
  • Deployment of View 3
  • Deployment of replacement calendar for /music
  • Deployment of revised /community application
  • Core update for WordPress

Views 3 upgrade

As part of the current iteration we are planning on making the upgrade from Views 2 to Views 3 live. Views 3 has been the preferred version in the Drupal community for some time, so it is time for us to catch up. It is also a stepping stone on our way towards an upgrade to Drupal 7.

Views is a module which provides the ability to have lists of data in various formats. It is used on all WMS sites to provide the content editing interface as well as on many sites for custom applications.

The upgrade is a fairly major one, and there are known issues with it, so we’ve taken our time converting all of our views to Views 3 and testing them.

We started this process late last year by creating a new version control branch so that our developers could work on converting all the views while still being able to make fixes to Views 2 code. We also contacted our partners in ISR and Libraries who also use Views as part of their development toolset to make sure they were aware of our plan to upgrade.

The Views 3 branch was merged back into our main branch two iterations ago and tested in a variety of scenarios. We then pushed all the changes to our QA environment last iteration for further testing.

The final step is to make all these changes live. We are planning to do this next week, with our DBAs on standby in case things go awry. Given the amount of work and testing that we’ve put into this, we’re not expecting major issues but it is possible there could be small issues with some of the more esoteric views. We will address these issues as they come up after the upgrade is completed.

 

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