404 error pages, we all know what they are, right. I will refresh your memory, a 404 error occurs when your server is reached by a user, but the page the user is looking for, can not be found. This may happen for a variety of reasons;
- A typo by the user, by simply missing the “l” in “html” will result in the 404 error,
- An external link to a moved/deleted page,
- An internal link to a moved/deleted page.
I read an article recently that stated that most users of the internet when encountering a 404 error page assumed that the whole website is no longer available, not just the one page. Bearing that in mind, after attracting a user to your page and for them to find a 404 error page, all your hard work is undone as they are browsing away from your website to your competitors site.
Stop making your 404 error page the exit page to your website. Create a 404 webpage that replaces the default error page. How I created my 404 page on my websites is to make the error page in the same format as any other page on my site, and then place the error information where the content would go.
If you do not want to create your page as above, make sure that you have;
- A link to your website as big and as clear as possible so the user will browse to your site,
- Make sure your page is less than 512 kilobytes, as windows explorer may display a default 404 page.
- If applicable have a search box so the user can type what they are looking for and be directed to the correct page.
- If applicable a drop down menu so the user can browse to the page of interest.
- If your site is small, maybe a site map showing all your pages.
- An apology for not have the page there, eg “We apologise for the inconvenience, please browse to our home page www.yourwebsite.com”.
Most website hosting services will have the ability to change your 404 error page, cPanel is a commom interface used by web hosting business, please contact your hosting company and they should be able to direct you on how to make the changes.
To get your new 404 error page up and running, first create in your favourite html editor and then upload.In cPanel you first need to logged in, click on the error page icon at the bottom of the configuration page, click on the “404 (not found)” link and then copy and paste your html into the text box. Save the information and it is completed.
To view the updated page live, browse to a page that you don’t have on your site and the new error page should be displayed.
If you have any ideas that have worked for you, please add to the comment box below.