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How to handle the Page Not Found error

Every site should handle the page not found error gracefully. Two quite similar articles have the following tips:
- Do not redirect people to the home page
- Let the visitor know that something unexpected is going on at first glance
- Do not call it "Error 404"
- Don't assume it's the visitor's fault
- Offer a site map
- Offer a search form
- Fix broken links
- Redirect outdated links to the new page locations

It's also possible to make 404 pages more intelligent by:
- Checking whether the link is an outdated bookmark and redirect to the new location
- Check whether it's a broken link in the site and notify the webmaster
- Check whether the link is from a search engine and use the search phrases to suggest relevant content (e.g. by doing an internal search)
- Add spell checking to catch minor typos in the URL

Links:

  • 'Not Found' Is Not An Option: Error Handling and User Experience Open link in new window
  • The Perfect 404 Open link in new window

Henrik Olsen - September 15, 2004

See also: Error handling (7)  Tips and guidelines (95) 

 

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