Have you ever visited a website where you clicked a link and were taken to a none descript error page? Maybe you clicked a link on another website or in the search engine results and ended up at an error page. This is because the website you are visiting (or trying to visit) does not use custom error pages.
As a website visitor, wouldn’t you find something like this a little more useful:
Than seeing something like this:
What are Error Pages?
Error pages are web pages shown to the website visitor when something has gone wrong with the web page they have requested. They will also been shown when there is a server error.
Common errors you may encounter:
- 403 Forbidden
You have requested to view a web page or directory to which you are not allowed.
The webmaster may have put security in place so that certain web pages are not available to the general public (you have to be logged in to view) or that certain directories on the web server are not available for viewing.
- 404 Not Found
The web page you requested cannot be found on the web server.
This is caused by:
- A link to a non existing page was clicked.
- A page has been moved or renamed and the web designer did not put a permanant 301 redirect in place.
- Someone found an old listing in a search engine or directory results and clicked it.
- The user made a typing error when manually typing the url of a web page.
- 500 Internal Error
There’s something wrong on the web server and it cannot process your request or update.
What are Custom Error Pages?
Custom error pages are pages shown to your website visitors which match your website theme when an error has occured within your website. The error can be caused by different things, the most common is the 404 – File Not Found error.
How Do I Create a Custom Error Page?
Note: Consult your web hosting documentation how to implement custom error pages, if allowed. A free web hosting account or when a hosted solution is being used, you may not be able to use custom error pages.
- Start by taking a copy of your website template and saving it with the appropriate name for the error you are creating it for. Consult the web hosting documentation as to the naming convention you should use.
- Include in the body (content) area:
- a precise description of what has happened, written in plain english, not a techical explaination.
- a search box if you have website search enabled on the website.
- a link to the website sitemap. (the traditional type, not to be confused with the sitemaps for Google or Yahoo)
- a list of possibly related links.
- a contact form (or link to) so the visitor can notify you of the error.
For more ideas on creating a custom error page, refer to:
The Perfect 404 – Article on creating the perfect custom error page by AList Apart.
Improving the Dreaded 404 Error Message – An article by usability expert Jacob Nielsen on creating a user friendly custom error page.
- Make the links to the images and styles for the page absolute as you may not know in advance what the relationship between your error page location and the page requested will be.
- Add the necessary server side instructions to implement your custom error pages.
On an Apache server you would use the .htaccess file for example. Consult the web hosting documentation for what they require.
Further Reading on Custom Error Pages
Trap 404 Errors on ASP and Report to Webmaster 404 Error Report – Used to catch 404 errors and report them to the webmasters email address. Also gives user a friendly message.
404 Research Lab – Research and information on custom 404 error pages.
Custom Error Pages for Blogs:
Do It Yourself 404 – contains techincal information for different web servers.
A More Useful 404 – A List Apart
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