Error pages

Todays topic are error pages numbered 404. Looking at my own blog I have worked out a solution and embedded it into the theme of my site.

What’s that Page not found for a visitor? Let’s have a look: Someone clicks a link and gets to a webpage that does not exist. If the CMS does not handle this error, our user gets to a more or less beautiful errormessage which might not match the site layout. In other words, the user might feel kicked out of the system.

What now? Most users will be pissed and leave the page. Only a small number will notify the webmaster about the dead link incident as it is too much work- so the site has to handle that on its own, excluding crawlers and spiders from search engines.

To do that job I have set up a script that displays a button that has to be clicked to trigger the report. Comments are not needed, but appreciated. That way, our visitor gets the impression that you care about him without letting him do extra work. As he clicks the button, the script gathers some information for our report: Where did he came from, what did he want to see and what browser caused the error.

Using that information it is an easy job fixing your site. Dead links can be redirected to the new adress and internal link structures can be improved.

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5 thoughts on “Error pages”

  • I completely agree with stargazer. Maybe you have never looked at it from a marketing aspect. It is not all about correct links, but also about people who are (human like) likely to make spelling mistakes; hence impossible to fix as you will presumingly understand. Especially when it comes to good compromises between usability and seo measures these pages are important as you will show the user that something has gone wrong while telling google&co the same time that a requested page does not exist. so send the searchengines also a correct 404 with a sitemap to follow for both, the spider and the user. This is by far better then plain browser or webserver generated and meaningless 404 error pages.
    everyone who has ever administrated a website with already a few 100+ websites will appreciate custom 404 error pages, especially when the environment keeps moving in certain parts of the website. Just imagine a blg where articles go into the archive after a certain time. This will break your rootline navigation by the speaking path segment immediately and links to that page will cause an 404. This is no good for th user and for the webmaster impossible to track manually once you have a certain mass of data to handle. I certainly do not have the time to keep browsing my error logs for such minor things, so a customizable error page comes in very handy.
    so before making such comments maybe you see things from a different point of view as only the webmasters’. Equivalent important are marketing and executive aspects. So turn any broken or simply misspelled url into a potential lead for customers when they are already trying to get onto your website. Any standard 404 page will turn those away and therewith you may turn the money away.
    Customer care actually is important and you should show this to your prospectives. This, from my point of view, makes more then sense when it comes to successful business making. I also think it is legitimate to ask users to report any errors as a user feedback is very independent. Nothing better then independent feedback which even is provided at no further costs! Its free and does not hurt!
    Nevertheless, a good webmaster will also care about broken links and will keep an eye on the error log, so a customized error page is not meant to be an excuse for not evaluating those , rather more a very sweet opportunity for customer care.

  • Users should never have to see errors like that.
    If the web server encounters a 404 the user should get a redirect to the next best solution and maybe a little message like “You tried to access an article that’s not there, you were therefore redirected to the article list.”

    That way the person never has the problem of being “kicked out of the system” and the admin can still get his/her mail/log entry/whatever.

    Showing technical error messages to users is never a good idea, they either are cunfused and think their computer is broken (which, if they know me, usually makes my phone ring and I hate it when the phone does that), they go back to try something else or leave the page. Nothing to gain in my opinion.

  • @tante: I appreciate your opinion. I think this is true for plain browser messages which do not lead you anywhere, but a nice incorporated error page should be fine. All is provided for the user and a redirect to the upper level or anywhere else may only be good after a real 404 return. A real 404 instead of a (i think it is) 320 redirect is better for search engines as it will keep the index tidy.

  • “That way, our visitor gets the impression that you care about him”

    looool. Honestly, 404 and other errors are not hard to fix. Just check your web logs, it’s all in there. If you want to make sure your site doesn’t have dead links, you don’t need the visitor to report it, you can see that very plainly yourself. :)

  • Well, numerodix – you can check your logs for 404 errors or you can let your site do it for you as this is not the only site I am managing.

    Just refering to a line from your blog: “there’s more than one way to skin a cat” – mind if I correct the link as you misspelled it?

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